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Alaska Department of Fish and Game


Pets and Livestock
Releasing Unwanted

Releasing unwanted pets or livestock does a disservice to Alaska’s wildlife and aquatic resources, and to the critter you may be thinking of releasing. Your animal could be killed immediately by a wild species, or it could slowly starve to death. Conversely, it could reproduce successfully after its release but, in so doing, create big problems for native fish and wildlife populations.

Aquarium Species Concerns

Disposing of aquarium water and ornamental fish should be done responsibly. Waste aquaria water needs to be treated with 12 ounces of bleach per gallon of water, mixed and allowed to stand five minutes, then poured into the public sewer system (i.e., a system that gets further chemical treatment). The fish or other animals should either be: killed and buried; deposited dead in a sanitary landfill; or returned to a pet store. It is not a good idea to flush them down the toilet: Fish flushed down toilets in Anchorage have survived, appearing ‘downstream’ in the municipality’s water treatment system.

Many ornamental species used in aquaria have caused significant damage when dumped into natural environments, and Alaska is not immune. For example, Elodea canadensis, a common freshwater aquarium plant, was detected in Alaska in 2010 when it began clogging a local waterway near Fairbanks. Experts suspect the initial introduction was from an unwitting pet owner thinking they were giving their fish a second chance, or assuming the water and plants in the aquarium were harmless.

Release is Illegal

Abandoning livestock or releasing pets and aquarium species to the wild to fend for themselves is illegal. It is also illegal to feed wildlife, or the descendents of released pets (see 5 AAC 92.230), whether on your property or not. Why is that?

If a pet or other domestic animal survives to reproduce, these animals and their descendents can outcompete, harass, kill, or displace wild species that would normally occupy the area. Often this means displaced wild animals get killed in fights when they try to move into territories that are already occupied by their own kind. It can also mean that the foods needed by wild species are instead being eaten by the released domestic animal and its progeny. This equates to fewer wildlife in the long run. As an example, many states such as Hawaii are facing significant wildlife reductions, and potential species extinctions, due to booming populations of feral goats, cats, and pigs.

Do your pet, Alaska’s fish and wildlife, and the environment a favor: Be humane. Euthanize your unwanted animal or take it to a local animal shelter. Don’t abandon it to the outdoors. And don’t dump aquarium water untreated into local waters.