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Animal amnesty program draws more than a dozen creatures

Herpetologist Michael K. Ralbovsky handles a snapping turtle

Herpetologist Michael K. Ralbovsky handles a snapping turtle turned in during an amnesty day event for illegally owned and exotic pets in Holtsville on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. Credit: Michael Owens

An amnesty program for illegally owned, exotic and dangerous animals drew more than a dozen creatures Saturday in Holtsville.

While the program was designed to allow residents to return illegally kept animals anonymously and without penalty, none of those turned in Saturday were illegal, organizers said. But nine turtles, three goats, two fish, an iguana, pig, lamb and tortoise did turn up at the the Town of Brookhaven Holtsville Ecology Site. 

The amnesty day was held by the Suffolk County SPCA and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and geared toward collecting protected, endangered and threatened animals being kept as pets, as well as exotic and dangerous animals, such as venomous snakes. Trained handlers were on site to accept the animals. 

An ongoing effort to raise awareness about harboring illegal animals could be one reason none were turned in Saturday, said SPCA Chief of Department Roy Gross.

“Maybe we’ve cleaned it up,” he said. “We’ve been constantly warning people.”

In the past monkeys, wolves, alligators, crocodiles, bears, cougars, leopards and snakes have been collected, Gross said. Hundreds of dangerous reptiles and mammals have been brought in over the years, he added.

In 2016, a Suffolk County man was bitten by his venomous snake, which he owned illegally, according to the Suffolk SPCA. 

"Protected and dangerous species need specific care," said state DEC Acting Captain Tom Gadomski in a news release earlier this week. "Individuals illegally keeping these animals as pets are at best, keeping native wildlife from breeding in natural habitats, and at worst, endangering themselves and others." 

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