In my view, the question in the title is asking whether a Florida resident can legally possess a cheetah as a companion animal or pet. I have provided the full answer below.
It is illegal to possess a cheetah personally in Florida unless the cat was possessed on or before August 27, 2009. That makes it possible for cheetahs to be possessed in Florida as at Oct 2021 because the lifespan of wild-caught cheetahs in zoos is 12 to 16 years of age and one survived to the age of 17. This exception will clearly fade away in the near future.
In Florida, the cheetah is classified as class I wildlife (68A-6.002, 68A-6.0021 and 68A-6.0022, FAC). There is a prohibition on possessing class I wildlife and in respect of cheetahs there is an exception as stated in the first sentence above. The law also states that anyone who possesses class I wildlife must guarantee financial responsibility (see 68A-6.0024, FAC).
Florida requires permits for wildlife possession including permits for exhibition and sale (of Class I wildlife). Therefore, if you did fall within the exception mentioned above on the prohibition of keeping a cheetah as a pet in Florida, you will still need a permit. I would suggest that the application process is going to be quite rigourous including, as mentioned, a guarantee of financial responsibility and the ability to look after a cheetah to a good standard while protecting the public. There may be annually inspections and so on.
I have checked the application form and it is indeed demanding. You will need 1000 hours of experience plus you’ll need a disaster or emergency plan. I would expect few people to be in a position to successfully apply for ownership of a cheetah in Florida. You can see the form by clicking on the link below:
These sorts of forms change over time so don’t be surprised if this form is out of date in a few years time. And as I mentioned below, FSW are going through a review of their administration and therefore changes are in train.
As at October 2021, if you click on this link you’ll be taken to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Application Information for Permits to Possess Wildlife. External links eventually go wrong over time so if it is broken, sorry, but I have no control over this.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are currently reviewing various aspects of the possession of wild animals including the reporting of injuries caused by a wild animal while in the possession of an individual or organisation. I sense that there will be a tightening up of the rules on the basis that there is a general trend nowadays towards greater restrictions over the possession of wild animals in the interests of conservation which in turn is due to a greater awareness by the public of the need to protect the planet.