Is It Legal to Own a Pet Sloth In Florida?
Gregg Hollander | October 12, 2020 | Florida Law
While many sloth fans think these slow-moving mammals are cute and harmless, that might not always be the case. Sloths are wild animals and might not make the best pets. They can bite, scratch, and injure children and adults alike, especially if they feel threatened.
It is, however, legal to own a sloth in Florida. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, sloths are a Class III animal. While there is no formal list that catalogs every animal that falls into Class III in Florida, there are several regulations you should be aware of if you are thinking of owning a pet sloth or buying one for the purposes of exhibition or public sale.
Do You Need a Permit to Own a Sloth in Florida?
One of the first regulations you need to be aware of is that you need a permit to own a sloth. How to obtain a permit for your sloth depends on why you are buying one in the first place.
If you are getting a sloth to keep as a personal pet, you can fill out the no-fee application and return it to the Florida Wildlife Commission’s Tallahassee office (which is clearly marked on the application). The application includes questions about the animal you are keeping as a pet (in this case a sloth) their size, and how you plan to cage the animal.
These questions are designed to make sure you are prepared to properly care for your sloth and to give the FWC an idea of what types of animals people are keeping as pets and where.
If, however, you are buying a sloth for exhibition purposes or in order to be able to later sell the sloth commercially, you will need to complete a different application which does come with a $50 fee.
This application includes some of the same information as the no-fee application though it does have at least one additional requirement. This application requires you to complete a critical incident/disaster plan to ensure you will know what to do with your sloth (or sloths) in the event of an emergency. The plan requires a lot of information regarding veterinary care, how you will transport your sloth, and more.
Note that It often takes 4-6 weeks for applications to be approved.
What Else Do You Need to Know About Owning a Pet Sloth in Florida?
While it might be legal to own a sloth in Florida, it might not be advised. As noted above, sloths are wild animals and can cause harm to individuals—especially children—if they feel threatened.
If you do own a pet sloth or any other exotic animal, you will be held liable in the event your pet harms another person. In fact, even if you aren’t negligent or intend for another to be harmed by your sloth, you can still be held accountable. This is called strict liability and it applies to owners of exotic pets like sloths.
If your sloth harms an individual, that person could sue you for damages including:
- Lost wages
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
Because of the inherent risk of owning an exotic animal as a pet and because you would be liable for any harm or damage your pet does, you might want to reconsider owning a sloth or many other kinds of wild animals.
And, even though you can own many different kinds of animals according to state law, it doesn’t mean every municipality accepts sloths and other exotic animals as pets. Before buying any pet, you should check with local regulations to make sure you are in compliance and know the rules.
What To Do if You are Harmed by Another Person’s Exotic Pet
If you have been harmed or injured by another person’s pet, you could be entitled to compensation. The first thing you should do is seek immediate medical attention.
The next thing you should do is contact a qualified personal injury lawyer who can walk you through the next steps of your case. These steps could include documenting your injuries and medical bills and advising you on how to interact with insurance adjusters and the other party’s lawyers.
If you have been injured and want to take legal action, you should also do so as soon as possible as the statute of limitations for these kinds of injuries can run out faster than you think.