DNR Reminds Pet Owners: Tag, Register ‘Wild Animal’ Reptiles

Social Circle, Ga.

The clock is ticking for Georgia pet owners who have any of the six reptile species newly regulated by the state to get their pets tagged and registered.

Since December, Nile monitors, African helmeted turtles, Chinese softshell turtles, Argentine black and white tegus, and Indian rock and Burmese pythons have been listed as wild animals in Georgia. Except for Georgia pet owners who tag and register these animals kept as pets before Dec. 3, 2023, these species can be possessed only for scientific, educational or public exhibition purposes.

The wild-animal list additions approved by the Board of Natural Resources late last year included a 12-month grace period for pet owners to tag and register the six reptile species and for businesses to sell any of the newly listed wild animals acquired before the changes took effect. Georgia pet owners can also transfer their pets to others as long as the animals are tagged and registered before the deadline.  

With that grace period ending at midnight Dec. 3, 2023, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources advises completing tagging and registration sooner rather than later. Before an animal can be registered with DNR’s Law Enforcement Division – a free, online process – it must be tagged with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag. DNR recommends using a veterinarian to add that unique identifier.

Dr. Brett Albanese, an assistant chief with DNR’s Wildlife Conservation Section, encouraged pet owners to “join others who have already tagged and registered their pet reptiles in compliance with the new rules.”

“We also cannot emphasize enough how important it is to never release non-native species in Georgia,” Albanese added. “This helps protect native wildlife and prevent the need for additional regulations.”

Details about registration and tagging are available at https://georgiawildlife.com/Reptile-Tagging-FAQ. The wild-animal rule changes are explained at https://georgiawildlife.com/wild-animal-rules.

Allowing Georgia pet owners to tag, register and keep any of the noted six reptile species owned on or before the rules took effect Dec. 4, 2022, keeps those animals in their homes and documents ownership. Releasing animals into the wild is illegal and counters efforts to protect wildlife from non-native species.

Georgia law distinguishes wild animals from wildlife native to the state as well as species normally considered domestic. From monk parakeets to silver carp, the state regulates wild animals that pose threats to wildlife, other natural resources or people, or that create problems with enforcing wildlife laws and regulations.

Last year’s changes to the wild animal list – the first since 1994 – added species that constitute a threat to Georgia wildlife or people and updated the scientific names for some species. Biologists decided which animals to add by reviewing non-native species documented in Georgia and nearby states and scientific publications assessing the ecological risks and any inherent danger to humans.