10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal to Own in New Jersey
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.