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United States Laws on Exotic Pets

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The United States is blessed with wild and exotic pets that are guided by laws that specify if an animal is banned, allowed, or need specific authorization.

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Some states allow exotic pets like kangaroo or squirrel to be kept, while it is illegal in other states.

It is best to know your state’s policy on animals first before you make any plans to keep a pet. Below is a list of United state laws on exotic pets:

Alabama

People in Alabama can’t own, import, or sell fish that belongs to the genus Clarias “walking fish”; black carp; Serrasalmus “piranha”; coyote, raccoon, fox, wild turkeys, wild rodents, or skunk; species of mongoose; Cervidae, which includes elk, deer, caribou, and moose.

There are no permits or licenses for owning exotic pets, especially tigers, lions, bears, or monkeys. A special license is required for individuals who are looking to have any wild animal exhibited. Also, a permit is needed for protected birds from the wild.

Alaska

People who stay in Alaska are not allowed to import, export, sell, or own live games, including reptiles, birds, or mammals. The state’s law specifies all non-domestic animals, including bears, wild canines, wild felines, and primates.

The restriction also affects wolf hybrids that are gotten after January 23, 2002, and primates like chimpanzees after January 31, 2010. Possession of these animals without the need for permits was allowed before these dates.

While the Department of Fish and Game grant permits for educational and scientific purposes only, prospective exotic pet owners can still request for a permit to own any banned animals.

Arizona

The Arizona administrative code dictates that it is illegal to have non-domestic felines and canines, pronates (asides non-infant primates free from any zoonotic diseases), crocodiles, alligators, poisonous snakes, and more.

Specific permits are only issues to particular groups or individuals who want to use them for public health, education, commercial photography, wildlife management, or wildlife rehabilitation.

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Arkansas

Massive carnivorous animals such as tigers, lions, and bears are illegal to own. This also includes baboons, apes, and macaques.

People in Arkansas aren’t also allowed to own more than six animals, including squirrels, bobcats, raccoons, rabbits, opossums, quail, deer, coyote, grey fox, and red fox. Verification would also be required if an animal was legally adopted from another state.

California

The California Natural Resources Agency banned most wild animals. Residents aren’t allowed to keep animals that include bighorn sheep, seals, and falcons.

Keeping non-domestic felines, canines, crocodiles, elephants, and many more animals is also illegal. Pet owners are only allowed to own alpacas, cattle, camels, and llamas.

Colorado

The Colorado wildlife law doesn’t permit the ownership of exotic animals such as raccoons, wild hogs, wildebeest, skunk, porcupines, monk parakeets, squirrels, hedgehog, opossum, and primates. However, the law permits the ownership of some native reptiles.

Connecticut

The United States law on exotic pets in Connecticut places a ban on potentially dangerous animals. The list includes large cats, bears, primates, and wolves.

Ownership is only allowed if your primate is below 35 lbs at maturity and was adopted before October 1, 2010.

Delaware

Permits for ownership of wild mammals and hybrids are required in the state of Delaware. Pets that are permitted include an opossum, ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and many more.

The law also allows pet owners to keep lizards such as bearded dragons, basilisks, chameleons, water dragons, anoles, iguanas, geckos, and more. Notwithstanding, keeping a non-native venomous snake is illegal.

Florida

The Florida Administrative Code states that its illegal to own a Class I animal, whereas owning a Class II animal require a permit.

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  • Class I animals: This include large cats, bears, rhinos, chimpanzees, crocodiles, and more.
  • Class II animals: This include macaques, howler monkeys, alligators, giraffes, wolves, cheetahs, bobcats, and more.

The selling, importation, and releasing of non-native species were forbidden in a law in 2010. A further restriction was placed on capturing and keeping poisonous reptiles, including reptiles of concern.

Nevertheless, owners are allowed to keep their pets if they already owned them before the law was passed. Permits aren’t needed if you own parrots, ferrets, chinchillas, hedgehogs, and other smaller rodents.

Georgia

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources listed illegal animals as dangerous animals.

The United States law on exotic pets states that animals like non-domesticated felines, non-domesticated canines, kangaroos, primates, alligators, bats, elephants, cobras, piranhas, Gila monsters, air-breathing catfish, and other poisonous snakes belong to this list.

A special permit would be required to own animals like capuchin monkey as a support animal. Animals such as European ferrets, sugar gliders, domesticated rabbits, and some small-sized rodents are allowed without any permits.

Hawaii

Exotic animals that aren’t allowed in Hawaii include large cats, bears, wild cats and dog hybrids, wild canines, birds of prey, geckos, deer, and wild cattle. Animals like gerbils, hedgehogs, hamsters, alligators, and ferrets are also not allowed.

Potential pet owners can keep chinchillas, parakeets, domesticated rats, domesticated mice, guinea pigs, and doves.

Idaho

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture doesn’t allow any “deleterious” animal that can be a threat to the environment, livestock, wildlife, or agriculture. These animals include primates, big cats, wild boar, opossum, hedgehogs, and non-native canines.

Special permits can be gotten from the Idaho Department of Agriculture to adopt an illegal animal. Nevertheless, the state allows for the ownership of animals like monks, guinea pigs, alpacas, llamas, or chinchillas.

Illinois

The state’s law doesn’t permit the ownership of dangerous animals as pets except if it’s a licensed circus, a zoo, or specific organizations. Some illegal animals include coyotes, large cats, bears, poisonous reptiles, and wolves.

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Illinois doesn’t allow primates as pets except if they were adopted and registered before 2011. Exceptions can be given to capuchin monkeys that are adopted as support animals, but with the necessary permit. Fortunately, owning other exotic pets are allowed.

Indiana

Owning an exotic pet in Indiana is a lot easier compared to other states, but pet owners still have to have permits for most of the animals.

Special permits are needed for Class I squirrels, including domestic rabbits, Class II mammals, as well as Class III dangerous animals such as bears, large cats, wolves, gorillas, hyenas, poisonous reptiles, anacondas, Burmese pythons and others.

Permits are not needed for common pets such as ferrets, sugar gliders, foxes, savannah cats, prairie dogs, skunks, and raccoons.

Iowa

The United States laws on exotic pets feature Iowa providing more direct rules regarding animal adoption.

Ownership or breeding of dangerous wild animals in the state is illegal, and this includes non-domestic dogs and cats, primates, bears, some reptiles and others.

The state permits some hybrid cats and wolf-dog, but a permit is needed to keep raptors and falconry.

Kansas

Kansas has strict laws that don’t allow dangerous animals as pets unless it’s an approved facility, animal sanctuary, or a zoo. Dangerous animals on the list include venomous snakes, bears, and large cats.

Keeping monk parakeets and ferrets are illegal, while potential pet owners can weigh their pet options in monkeys. Permits are also needed to keep raptors and falconry.

Kentucky

Pet owners aren’t allowed to keep inherently dangerous pets such as large cats, bears, honey badgers, dangerous reptiles, and more. Kentucky laws allow the adoption of animals such as goats, chinchillas, camels, alpacas, parrots, llamas, yaks, and toucans.

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Louisiana

The state of Louisiana doesn’t permit the ownership of bear, primates, wild feline, wild canines unless in exceptional cases. Permission is also required to own large constricting or venomous snakes.

Maine

It’s illegal to breed or possess wild animals in Maine without proper permits. People in Maine aren’t allowed to keep moose, deer, wild turkeys, or bears.

Other illegal animals include wolf, lion, cheetah, camel, monkeys, monk parakeets, alligator, and mute swan. With the right permits, residents can keep domestic ferrets, emu, chinchillas, and sugar gliders.

Maryland

The beautiful state of Maryland doesn’t allow the ownership of a wide selection of exotic pets. Wild canines, wild felines, raccoons, bears, skunks, primates, alligators, selected venomous snakes, and some exotic pets are banned in the state. Notwithstanding, sugar gliders and hedgehogs are allowed.

Massachusetts

Keeping any wild animal as pets in Massachusetts is prohibited. The state listed wild animals as non-domesticated animals that include big cats, bears, primates and wild dogs.

Owning geckos, ferrets, some turtles, emus, doves, sugar gliders, llamas, American bison, or chinchillas is allowed.

Mississippi

Felines such as servals and ocelots are permitted in the state of Mississippi without any permit. Amazingly, llamas can also be adopted without a license. However, dangerous animals, as specified by the state’s law, requires a proper license to be owned as a pet.

Some of these dangerous animals include wild canines, bears, big cats, elephants, wolves, rhinos, hyenas, primates, and hippos. Permits associated with keeping any of these animals are very steep, and would only be valid for a year for one pet.

Missouri

You are required to have your animal registered with the county, especially if it is on the state’s list of potentially dangerous wild animals. With the proper paperwork, you can keep animals like wolves, ocelots, primates, tigers, lions, and poisonous reptiles. Permits are not required for animals like yams, camels, servals, and chinchillas.

Montana

Montana state’s law requires a permit to own a wild animal. This is particular of owners who don’t exhibit their wild animals such as bears and large cats. The state specifies that exotic pets that are brought in must have a health certificate and a one-time entry permit.

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Also, the state bans animals such as bats, apes, spiders, gibbons, opossums, howler monkeys, raccoons, red-ears slider turtles, anacondas, pythons, nutria, foxes, skunks, crocodilians, and many more.

The set of animals that do not require a permit include wallabies, serval cats, parrots, sugar gliders, African Pygmy hedgehog, toucans, and some non-poisonous reptiles.

Nebraska

The Nebraska state law claims that it is legal to keep primates and reptiles. Illegal animals include skunks, non-domesticated felines, bears, or wolves. Prospective exotic pet owners can apply for permits to retain banned animals.

Nevada

The state of Nevada has some of the lenient wildlife regulations. Exotic pets owners can add wolves, camels, ostriches, zebras, alpacas, elephants, zebras, primates, non-domesticated felines, and more to their collection without a license or permit.

Illegal animals include crocodiles, alligators, bats, moose, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, and venomous snakes.

New Hampshire

Poisonous reptiles, primates, bears, wolves, big cats, and other animals are banned in New Hampshire. Some fish, birds, turtles, amphibians, and snakes need permits.

Prospective pet owner does not require any paperwork to adopt sugar gliders, llamas, ferrets, chinchillas, camels, bison, or pigs as pets.

New Jersey

Animals that are classed as potentially dangerous by the state are not allowed to be adopted by the state. This includes non-domesticated cats, primates, and bears. This list consists of some animals such as monk and ring-necked parakeets, ground squirrels, and axolotls.

After meeting extensive requirements, exhibitors and zoos may request for a permit. A permit is also needed to keep exotic sheep, goat, hedgehogs, parrots, ferrets, some lizards and venomous snakes.

The state does not require a permit for animals such as ostrich, emu, alpaca, rheas, or llama as pets.

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New Mexico

The United States law on exotic pets in New Mexico states that you cannot keep primates, non-domesticated felines, crocodiles, skunks, wolves, alligators, wolves, and bears. Paperwork for non-domestic animals would have to be filled, but you don’t have to go through the stress with keeping llamas and ferrets.

New York

The state of New York maintains that prospective pet owners aren’t allowed to keep any wild animal, including venomous reptiles, bears, primates, crocodiles, and non-domestic canines or felines.

However, the state permits ownership of animals that include kangaroos, porcupines, capybaras, sugar gliders, wallabies, and some non-venomous reptiles.

North Carolina

The wildlife laws in North Carolina allows each cities and counties to establish ordinances concerning exotic pets. Potential pet owners may or may not have any guidelines depending on what part of the state you live in.

An entry permit would be required, and you can get one from the state vet. Animals that require a permit include foxes, raccoons, skunks, coyotes, brushtail possum, martens, and non-domestic felines.

North Dakota

The North Dakota law states that citizens may or may not require a license to keep an animal. Owning an exotic pet is dependent on what category the animal is, and dangerous animals are listed as Category 4.

 Animals in this category require a license and some of them include primate, wolves, bear, and all non-domesticated felines apart from Canadian lynx and bobcats.

People in the state can keep animals like arachnids, amphibians, chinchillas, non-venomous reptiles, sugar gliders, and hedgehogs without a license.

Ohio

Since the Zanesville massacre in 2011, Ohio has had its laws changed, and over 50 wild animals have been released which required authorities to euthanize tigers, lions, wolves, and bears that roam the streets.

The Dangerous Wild Animal Act has since made it compulsory to get permits for animals like bears, lions, elephants, tigers, monkeys, alligators, and servals. Animals that do not require any paperwork include foxes, lemurs, alpacas, bobcats, and llamas.

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Oklahoma

Residents in Oklahoma can keep any animal as long as they can present their wildlife breeder’s license. However, the license doesn’t allow the ownership of exotic fish, livestock, and amphibians.

Oregon

It is illegal to possess bears, wild cats, foreign canines, alligators, monkeys, crocs, or caimans. A special permit can be acquired for an emotional support monkey.

Animals that don’t require permits include ferrets, alpacas, camels, bison, emus, chinchillas, llamas, ostriches, sugar gliders, lemurs, and giraffes.

Pennsylvania

The United States law on exotic pets in Pennsylvania requires that exotic pet owners acquire a permit for their animals. This list includes jaguars, leopards, tigers, bears, wolves, and coyotes.

Animals that are permitted as pets without a permit include ferrets, hedgehogs (acquires within the state), and non-native venomous reptiles.

Rhode Island

The state of Rhode Island requires permits to keep hyenas, bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, monkeys, elephants, hippos, wolves, Gila monsters, and giraffes.

The licenses should also include proof that potential pet owners know how to care for the animals and can provide suitable accommodation for them. Chinchillas, geckos, and sugar gliders are animals that do not require any permit.

South Carolina

The state of South Carolina prohibits the ownership of animals such as lions, tigers, wolves, coyotes, great apes, and non-native bears. However, it doesn’t include those that are certified before January 2018.

A permit is needed to keep exotic animals like raccoons, foxes, beaver, deer, bison, and bobcats. Permits aren’t required for animals like reptiles, monkeys, parrots, rabbits, amphibians, tropical fish, or rodent pets such as hamsters, mice, gerbils, and guinea pigs.

South Dakota

Owning hoofed animals, primates, bears, large cats, or other exotic pets requires permits and a vet’s examination. The state of South Dakota prohibits the ownership of non-domestic pigs and raccoon dogs.

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Tennessee

The list of pets banned by the state include gorillas, chimpanzees, wolves, baboons, lions, cheetahs, bears, tigers, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, alligators, crocs, and venomous snakes.

There are presently no regulations on animals like monkeys and wild cats like servals, bobcats, and ocelots.

Pet owners can keep animals such as chinchillas, ferrets, alpacas, llamas, camels, ostriches, giraffes, and kangaroos without any permit.

Texas

A permit is required to keep several animals that the state lists as dangerous. This includes animals like coyotes, bears, apes, tigers, lions, and many others. There are presently no laws affecting the ownership of wolves, ferrets, capybaras, monkeys, lemurs and others.

Utah

The state of Utah only allows the ownership of animals like apes, monkeys, kangaroos, ferrets, all non-domesticated cats, bears, coyotes, hedgehogs and more with a permit.

Unfortunately, getting a permit is very difficult because they are rarely authorized. Pet owners can take advantage of keeping animals like chinchillas, sugar gliders, ostriches, camels, crocodiles, alpacas, penguins, and alligators because they don’t require any permit.

Vermont

Vermont wildlife laws don’t allow you to keep any exotic animals as pets unless it’s for exhibitions and educational purposes. The animals on the list include poisonous reptiles, bears, primates, wolves, and large cats.

You would also require a permit to keep an exotic animal even for exhibitory and educational purposes. Nonetheless, without a license, you can keep alpacas, alligators, chinchillas, yaks, ostriches, European ferrets, llamas, bison, and sugar gliders.

Virginia

The laws in Virginia lets you keep primates as exotic pets. Animals like camels, alpacas, llamas, and chinchillas require the right paperwork to own. Exotic animals used for exhibitory and educational purposes require a license.

Animals that are prohibited include wolves, bears, coyotes, lions, hyenas, tigers, crocodiles, alligators, and leopards. Potential pet owners can also apply for permits to adopt the animals that the state of Virginia has prohibited.

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Washington

The Washington state laws had dangerous animals restricted and illegal to be kept as pets. This change was made in 2007, and the animals affected include wolves, bears, primates, large cats, alligators, elephants, and venomous snakes, but doesn’t affect llamas and ferrets.

West Virginia

In 2015, the state of West Virginia outlawed the ownership of dangerous non-native wild animals, except in cases where they were already owned before then.

The animals included in the list of dangerous non-native wild animals are bears, grey wolves, elephants, big cats, primates, rhinoceroses, and more. Lemurs and ferrets can be kept without any hassle.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin requires a certificate of veterinary inspection and import permit from people looking to bring in wind animals into the state. There are specific rodents that the state doesn’t allow unless you have direct permission from the Department of Natural Resources.

Harmful native animals aren’t allowed as pets, and they include raccoons, black bears, bobcats, and cougars. However, the state allows pet owners to keep monkeys.

Wyoming

The United States laws on exotic pets in Wyoming prohibits big game animals such as sheep, elk, antelope, moose; trophy game like mountain lions, grizzly and black bears, and exotic species as pets.

Prospective pet owners do not require permits to own domestic ferrets, camels, alpacas, llamas, chinchillas, and wolves.

To get more information, you can consult with the nearest veterinarian and reputable breeders. Knowing the laws guiding exotic animals would save you the stress of adopting any that might get you in trouble.

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