10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal to Own in New Jersey

Updated on May 30, 2019
Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

No two states are alike when it comes to the rules for keeping exotic pets. Some call New Jersey's policies an exotic pet ban because the "big five" (1. venomous and large reptiles, 2. primates, 3. bears, 4. exotic felids, and 5. exotic canids) are illegal, but there are a surprising number of species that are legal in New Jersey.

Surprisingly, a permit is required to own common species such as ferrets, macaws, pythons, hedgehogs, and skunks. The good news is that these permits, called Individual Hobby Wildlife Species Possession Permits, are obtainable and have a relatively reasonable fee. You also only need one permit for any number of animals.

1. Skunk

Skunks are legal pets in New Jersey.
Skunks are legal pets in New Jersey.

1. Skunks

Surprisingly, unlike its neighboring states, prominent rabies vectors, like skunks, are legal with a permit in NJ. Skunks are not even legal in some states where big cats and bears are, such as Nevada and North Carolina. These creatures are popular exotic pets that are captive-bred, "de-skunked," and considered to be domesticated. There is no reason for them to be illegal anywhere.

Source

2. Opossums

From the NJ Division of wildlife website:

Q. Can I have a pet raccoon, skunk, or opossum in New Jersey?

A. Yes, but only if purchased from a licensed pet dealer. A Captive Game Permit would be needed. You cannot obtain a raccoon, skunk or opossum from the wild and keep it as a pet.

It is explicitly stated that these animals, two of which are rabies vectors, are legal in the state provided one obtains a permit. Opossums are said to be resistant to the rabies virus due to their low body temperature. The permit application appears to be reasonable, only asking for your veterinarian, the animal’s diet, and intended caging. There appears to be no requirements that would be hard for an average pet owner to meet.

3. Raccoons

Raccoons cannot come from the wild, they must come from a licensed breeder, but this is a good thing due to rabies concerns. Be aware that raccoons will likely be euthanized if they bite or scratch a member of the public to test for rabies because the vaccines are not approved for them. This is the case for most exotic mammals.

4. Red Squirrels

New Jersey has a list of animals that are prohibited and are illegal as ‘pets’ (no permits are issued to pet owners) that include the ‘big five’ (see first paragraph) and species that they’ve determined to be deleterious to the environment or public health. Two rodents, ground squirrels and prairie dogs (likely due to the old monkey pox scare of 2005) have qualified. Monk and ring-neck parrots are able to survive in a Northern climate and are also illegal. On the other hand, New Jersey has a list of animals that are not regulated and can be kept without a permit. The red squirrel is on this list, and also chipmunks and flying squirrels.

5. Ostriches

Ostriches are giant birds from the African Savannah and people consider them to be wild animals, but they are often legal due to their agricultural use in many states.

From 7:25-4.3 Exotic Species and Non-Game Species Requiring a Permit for Possession:

Please note: Emus, Ostriches, Greater Rheas, Lesser Rheas were designated as agricultural livestock pursuant to P.L. 1997, c. 316 (N.J.S.A. 4:2-17) and Llamas, Alpacas and Guanacos were designated as agricultural livestock pursuant to P.L. 1994, c. 33 (N.J.S.A. 4:2-16). Therefore, they are considered exempt species and DO NOT require a permit for possession.

Source

6. Boa Constrictors

Also called a red-tailed boa, this is a relatively large species with a name that scares people who know little about snakes. It is actually common in the pet trade and poses a scant risk to public safety. This species is legal to keep in New Jersey even without a permit, which is a good thing.

Source

7. Kinkajous

This exotic pet resembles a monkey but is actually related to raccoons. Due to the following statement:

From 7:25-4.5 Additional Species: A permit shall be required for any other exotic mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians, or non-game species not specifically exempted by Section 4.4.

A permit is required to keep this species, which can be issued to pet owners.

Source

8. Coatimundis

Also due to 7:25-4.5, coatimundis, another raccoon relative, can be kept in New Jersey provided you obtain a permit. You’ll want reasonably sized and secure housing for this clever animal to hopefully gain approval from The NJ DEP Division of Fish.

Source

9. Hedgehogs

Unfortunately, you need a permit to own a hedgehog and even a ferret in New Jersey. The state’s laws can be congratulated for offering permits to pet owners that are (presumably) obtainable and reasonable. But why are species that are completely harmless due to their size alone require a permit? Why should a pet owner be charged a fee for permission to own a pocket pet that doesn’t even threaten the ecosystem of the Northeast?

The NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife issues a variety of permits pertaining to exotic and nongame wildlife species.

10. Wallabies

A wallaby is another species you’ll need a permit for, which is a tad more reasonable than needing one for a hedgehog or ferret. They are harmless, but will require secure outdoor housing to prevent escapes.

New Jersey also nonsensically requires a permit for half moon conures, red-fronted parrots, African grey parrot, macaws, llamas, exotic sheep, pythons, and skinks, in addition to others.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

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    • profile image

      I can't say my name sorry though 

      2 days ago

      can u buy a meerkat in Newark or New Jersey

    • profile image

      Bruh96 

      7 days ago

      Can I own a Wolf Dog or Wolf Hybrid in New Jersey

    • profile image

      Luke 

      2 weeks ago

      Can u own a meerkat

    • profile image

      Petlover11 

      4 weeks ago

      Can you have a pet fox?

    • profile image

      Hi 

      4 weeks ago

      I guess I can get a turtle

    • profile image

      Bella Shaelyns namekmd 

      6 weeks ago

      Can you own an otter if u have the papers

    • profile image

      Reddie 

      7 weeks ago

      Can you own a ferret in New jersey

    • profile image

      Commissar80 

      8 weeks ago

      How do go about breeding and selling invertebrates legally in New Jersey

    • profile image

      Raybel 

      3 months ago

      Can you own a Macaw in New Jersey??

    • profile image

      Sally 

      3 months ago

      Are pigs legal to have as a pet

    • profile image

      ally 

      5 months ago

      Can you have a wolf as a pet?

    • profile image

      Pewdiepie 

      6 months ago

      Can you own a crocodile in NJ

    • profile image

      Mcobb1009 

      6 months ago

      Can you legally own a duck in nj?

    • profile image

      Yeet boi 

      6 months ago

      Yeet

    • profile image

      Sophie G 

      6 months ago

      Is it legal to own a pig in Jersey City?

    • profile image

      Nafesa 

      7 months ago

      I really want a pig is that possible

    • profile image

      Nyjah Howard 

      10 months ago

      Are small asian short clawed ottter legal

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      11 months ago from New York

      Yes that is domestic livestock.

    • profile image

      am 

      11 months ago

      Can I keep a pet lamb?

    • profile image

      Quinn Teegan Dance Quee 

      12 months ago

      Are sugar gliders leagal in New Jersey

    • profile image

      Kaie 

      13 months ago

      Can you have an armildillo in New Jersey?

    • profile image

      Jacq 

      14 months ago

      Are Argentine Tegus legal to own in NJ? Thanks for the help!

    • profile image

      Gxhfyv 

      14 months ago

      Why did you not Mention otters

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      14 months ago from New York

      Rocco: Of course

    • profile image

      Rocco 

      14 months ago

      Are chinchillas legal in nj

    • profile image

      Askdk 

      15 months ago

      Can i own a dinosaurs?

    • profile image

      tchubs 

      16 months ago

      sugar gliders are fine

    • profile image

      Kitana Jones 

      16 months ago

      Are hognose snakes allowed. Ik they are venomous but its a mild venom that is only dangerous to frogs and other amphibians.

    • profile image

      ButtNugget27 

      17 months ago

      Can you have Axolotles In NJ?

    • profile image

      Nevarez 

      18 months ago

      Is it legal to have a squirrel moneky n nj

    • profile image

      aaron 

      18 months ago

      can I have a pet cheetah in NJ?

    • profile image

      Sparkplug 

      20 months ago

      Are sugar gliders illegal

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      21 months ago from New York

      Okcat, yes.

    • profile image

      Okcat 

      21 months ago

      Are bearded dragons allowed

    • profile image

      absdec 

      2 years ago

      can you own a cacomistle in NJ?

    • profile image

      crml 

      2 years ago

      can u own a sloth in nj

    • profile image

      tj 

      2 years ago

      everything is illegal in NJ.

    • profile image

      AG 

      2 years ago

      Well i have a neighbor who own a big in New jersey. So if he has one then you should be able to

    • profile image

      2 years ago

      what about pigs? is it legal?

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Not sure, probably not.

    • profile image

      Nigel 

      2 years ago

      What about a wolfdog

    • profile image

      ManNewt 

      2 years ago

      I thought there might be a loop hole that can be used to own lemurs in New Jersey.

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Big cats, primates, bears, venomous snakes, alligators, rhinos, ect. The list goes on and on.

    • profile image

      Kaitlyn 

      2 years ago

      What is not allowed to be owned in New Jersey

    • profile image

      AP 

      2 years ago

      I don't think that requiring a permit for large, temperamental parrots is unreasonable, actually. A surprising number of people buy thousand-dollar parrots as impulse purchases, then realize they're more demanding than they expected. And while small and non-temperamental parrots are easy to rehome, large and temperamental parrots aren't, at least not if you're rehoming them responsibly.

      The problem is that the people who know enough to properly care for a large parrot also know better than to keep one, particularly one with behavioral issues as a result of an irresponsible owner (macaws and cockatoos are particularly prone to this).

      A friend of my aunt's runs a parrot rescue, and she has no problem rehoming the small parrots. There's plenty of people who understand the commitment and think it's worth it for a small parrot. The same is true for amazons and grays, which seem to be less prone to developing behavioral issues than macaws and cockatoos. Though it takes her longer, she also finds homes for the cockatoos, though it takes awhile, because cockatoos have charming personalities that a lot of people find worth it.

      However she had almost a dozen macaws and her collection was slowly growing, because she could not find people capable of taking care of them who actually wanted a large macaw, *particularly* not ones with behavioral problems. (And large macaws have personalities similar to many mini-macaws and conures, birds which are considerably capable of inflicting surgery-requiring bites.)

      I'm not sure where I'd draw the line, but if I were writing exotic pet regulations from scratch I'd definitely require permits for large macaws and cockatoos. I'd probably require them for grays, amazons, and mid-sized cockatoos like galahs and corellas. I *might* require them for some of the louder conure species, since people seem to give up /Aratinga spp./ conures a lot on account of noise complaints from their owners, owners' family, or neighbors. (I was fortunate that I lived in a house for the whole time I had my sun conure, even then my brother grew to hate him.)

      New Jersey's laws seem surprisingly sensible for the Northeast, but with so many animals under permit they could easily go the way of Maine, Pennsylvania, and Oregon: sensible on paper, but not in practice because the authority that issues permits has decided that while they *may* issue permits for pets, they're not *required* to, and don't *want* to.

      Also, New Jersey is one of a handful of states that still bans quaker parakeets based on the fear of them being an invasive species. All feral quaker populations come from escaped wild-caught birds, and they've proven not to be invasive, since they can't survive outside of cities. Despite this, New Jersey clings to its ban on quaker parakeets, just like it clings to its bans on fireworks and self-serve gas stations.

    • profile image

      ManNewt 

      2 years ago

      I have also heard that the only species of gecko you can keep without a permit is a tokay, which is pretty stupid if you ask me.

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