Ready for take off: Nikki Fried officially clears Santa, reindeer for flight into Florida

Santa Claus flying in his sleigh over the moon
Animals given reign to visit any Florida domicile, but only during 11-hour time frame.

A certain jolly old elf will face no legal barriers landing reindeer on Florida rooftops this year.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Monday released a license for “Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus,” allowing up to nine reindeer access to “all homes, domiciles, encampments, and premises in Florida.”

While that’s a relatively broad set of parameters for an official permit on the movement of animals, the state will limit the time frame when the reindeer enjoy free rein. The animals must be through Florida airspace between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 7 a.m. Wednesday.

That period coincides with Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, an apparent motivator for the state’s speedy action.

“Here at the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, we want to ensure Mr. Claus can spread the joy of Christmas to children across Florida,” Fried said. “That’s why we’re issuing his certificate of animal movement ahead of time and waiving all fees.”

Health concerns will be minimal despite out-of-state reindeer rushing through all of Florida with such a clatter. A state veterinarian said all of the animals in question had been vaccinated for all diseases they might encounter anywhere in the world.

While one reindeer, named Rudolph, was initially diagnosed with “red nose syndrome,” state officials determined symptoms were “normal for him” and not an animal health concern.

The permit applies only to nine inspected stirring creatures: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen (and the aforementioned Rudolph). Fried approved a permit herself, numbered as infinity, and shipped it expeditiously to 100 Candy Cane Lane in the North Pole.

Port personnel will allow permit holders to enter Florida airspace using a wooden sleigh equipped with jingling bells, an archaic but surprisingly effective method of alerting other aircraft of its presence. Short inspections of the deer will be required at ports at entry.

Claus — and any passengers of his sleigh — must adhere to state regulations relating to the entry of exotic species, livestock and poultry breeds. Elf boots must be disinfected, and Santa must wash his hands washed while bringing the animals across state lines.

“These measures are intended to prevent the entry of any livestock diseases the team may encounter during deliveries to farms around the world prior to entering Florida,” reads an FDACS news release.

But officials anticipate no problems with the swift movement of the sleigh and reindeer, who reportedly fly more rapid than eagles.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].

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