A well-known iguana and reptile breeder in Charlotte County won a court case after the Florida Fish and Wildlife tried to eliminate his breeder’s license.
The court victory, posted Wednesday, allows Taesoon (Ty) Park and his facility on Bermont Road to move forward with plans to open as a public exhibit and education site.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission refused to renew Park’s license last August after two of his monitor lizards escaped and injured two dogs of neighbors. FWC stated in legal documents that they had accused Park of being responsible for about 200 escaped iguanas, tegus and other reptiles since 2016.
FWC is in a battle now with invasive wildlife including tegus, green iguanas and pythons. All are species introduced from other countries and when released into the Florida landscape, tend to wipe out existing wildlife.
Park’s case initially went to criminal court, but was moved to administrative court. Park’s lawyer, John Haymans, argued that the state did not prove that Park was responsible for all of the 200 escaped exotic reptiles. He also argued that it was a contractor who caused the monitor lizards to escape and that even FWC’s inspector did not see the flaw in the cage where the lizards got out.
One of the lizards was euthanized.
For its case, FWC argued that the number of invasive reptiles they captured near Park’s facility was far above what would be considered typical for that landscape, and that Park had accepted responsibility.
Haymans also informed the judge of Park’s high profile in the national reptile research community where many rely on him to properly breed and raise specific species.
Park has many fans in the reptile world, and he has described himself as a lifelong reptile lover who wants to help others appreciate these ancient species. He was featured in the Miami Herald on the same day news of his court victory broke. But the Herald was writing to let readers know that Park hopes to open his facility to the public soon, possibly this summer.
Park could not be reached for comment, but Haymans spoke for him.
“The FWC was reacting to the invasive exotic reptile problem we have in Florida,” Haymans said in an email. “As sometimes happens, their initial denial of the renewal of Mr. Park’s license was an over-reaction. The reports of captured and dead reptiles the FWC attempted to connect to Mr. Park included many that Mr. Park has never possessed. He has never been previously cited or given a warning about his caging, treatment, or escape. The two animals that did escape came from cages inspected by FWC, and were an aberration. The Administrative Hearing Judge recognized the prejudicial over-reach of the reports, and determined that the important conservation, preservation, and education work by Mr. Park and his facility should have been given greater weight by FWC. Most of the rare animals to be included in the IguanaLand Zoo cannot survive outside of a temperature controlled facility, and none of the animals are dangerous to humans. Additionally, the Zoo will have a redundant containment barrier around the facility to prevent further escapes.”
Of the public opening, Haymans wrote: “Mr. Park is converting from a breeding and research facility to an education and research facility. He hopes to open this agricultural tourism phase of his life’s work as soon as all licenses are issued, and facility improvements are completed.”