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" are illegal, but there are a surprising number of species that are okay to own in the state.
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.
What Are the Big Five?
- venomous and large reptiles
- exotic felids
- exotic canids
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.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can you own a sloth in NJ?
Answer: Yes, with a permit from the state.
Question: Can I own a otter in NJ ?
Answer: You would need to be granted a permit, which could be difficult seeing as you would need to show a top notch enclosure.
Question: Can someone own a Capybara in NJ?
Answer: Yes, with a permit.
Question: Can I own a dragon snake in Morris County, New Jersey?
Answer: Yes, but they are rare and die in captivity, so technically no.
Question: Can I own a fennec fox in New Jersey?
Answer: No, please see my article '10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal to Own in New Jersey'.
Question: Can I own flying squirrel in New Jersey?
Answer: Yes, no permit is required.
Question: Can I own a sloth in New Jersey?
Answer: Yes, with a permit.
Question: Can I own a chinchilla in New Jersey?
Question: Can I own a ferret in New Jersey? If so, do I need a permit?
Answer: I believe a permit is needed for ferrets.
Question: Can I own a mini pig in Barnegat Nj?
Answer: Pigs are not illegal in any of the contiguous states, but you will need to check your zoning laws for pet pigs. Many cities and neighborhood associations restrict them. You must call them.
Question: Can I own an anteater in New Jersey?
Answer: You would need to apply for a Class 1 wildlife permit.
Question: Can I own a bearded dragon in NJ?
Question: Can I own a toucan in New Jersey?
Question: Can I own a kangaroo in New Jersey?
Answer: Yes, but you need to apply for a permit for possession of a kangaroo.
Question: Can I own a tarantula in NJ?
Question: can I own an alpaca in New Jersey?
Question: can I own an octopus in New Jersey?
Question: Can I own a caracal?
Answer: In New Jersey, that would require a permit and inspections, which is not an easy task.
Question: Can I own a pine martin in New Jersey?
It's not likely that you will find one, but they should be legal with a permit issued by the state.
Jim Jan the pizza man on August 19, 2020:
I know, but whatever
zach on August 18, 2020:
those animals are weird to own
Jim Jam the pizza man on August 10, 2020:
Can I legally own a wolf/dog mix in New Jersey?
Harry Potter on August 10, 2020:
Thanks for letting me know!
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 31, 2020:
Harry Potter : You can own a skunk in NJ with a permit.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 31, 2020:
Joanne: Probably, if you can find one...
Harry Potter on July 30, 2020:
Can I legally own a skunk in NJ?
abby on July 05, 2020:
Can i own a goat in nj?
Anonymous on July 03, 2020:
Can I own a pet red fox in Wallington
Warisha on July 03, 2020:
Hi there. Can I own a Vervet Monkey in Clifton New Jersey?
Danielle Balzer on July 02, 2020:
Hi Can I own a cockatoo in New Jersey
Coro on July 02, 2020:
Can I own a Chipmunk in New Jersey?
Jaden Bethea on June 29, 2020:
I really want a baby duck but i don’t know if it’s legal I Nj can somebody please tell me?
Sandra combs on June 24, 2020:
Can a person in Kentucky get a skunk and do. Ned a permit ! How a skunk !
Joanne on June 20, 2020:
Can I own a jerboa in nj
Perry on June 20, 2020:
Can I own 18 Tibetan mastiffs in nj
Jay’Leen on June 14, 2020:
can i have a finger monkey as a pet in new jersey?
Juno Moon on June 12, 2020:
Are Tiger Salamanders allowed in New Jersey?
Amelia on June 10, 2020:
Wait so I need a permit for my hyacinth macaw?
Diego on May 17, 2020:
Can I own a Pygmy goat in New Jersey
sofia on May 08, 2020:
are gray squirrels allowed to be as pets
Chrissy on May 06, 2020:
Are foxes legal in NJ?
sam on April 11, 2020:
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Ava on April 06, 2020:
Are teacup pigs legal
Gianna on March 28, 2020:
Can you own a silky anteater in New Jersey
Moke on February 24, 2020:
Can you own a koala in NJ?
We on February 23, 2020:
You can own a snake, and a squirrel monkey in NJ
Gc on February 22, 2020:
Can you have a corn Snake in ni as pet?
Jp on February 10, 2020:
I want an otter I live in jersey city HMU
Maggie on February 08, 2020:
So you can have a ferret in New Jersey
Candis on January 19, 2020:
Can i own a baby monkey in newjersey
Kevin on January 07, 2020:
Is it legal to own any of the following without a permit in union,nj
serval cat Savannah cat Bengal cat
Kyler Martinez on December 12, 2019:
Can you own a monkey in NJ?
I can't say my name sorry though on November 15, 2019:
can u buy a meerkat in Newark or New Jersey
Bruh96 on November 10, 2019:
Can I own a Wolf Dog or Wolf Hybrid in New Jersey
Luke on October 30, 2019:
Can u own a meerkat
Petlover11 on October 18, 2019:
Can you have a pet fox?
Hi on October 17, 2019:
I guess I can get a turtle
Bella Shaelyns namekmd on October 04, 2019:
Can you own an otter if u have the papers
Reddie on September 25, 2019:
Can you own a ferret in New jersey
Commissar80 on September 21, 2019:
How do go about breeding and selling invertebrates legally in New Jersey
Raybel on August 01, 2019:
Can you own a Macaw in New Jersey??
Sally on July 22, 2019:
Are pigs legal to have as a pet
ally on June 06, 2019:
Can you have a wolf as a pet?
Pewdiepie on May 14, 2019:
Can you own a crocodile in NJ
Mcobb1009 on April 27, 2019:
Can you legally own a duck in nj?
Yeet boi on April 23, 2019:
Sophie G on April 22, 2019:
Is it legal to own a pig in Jersey City?
Nafesa on April 08, 2019:
I really want a pig is that possible
Nyjah Howard on January 04, 2019:
Are small asian short clawed ottter legal
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 16, 2018:
Yes that is domestic livestock.
am on December 16, 2018:
Can I keep a pet lamb?
Quinn Teegan Dance Quee on November 11, 2018:
Are sugar gliders leagal in New Jersey
Kaie on October 08, 2018:
Can you have an armildillo in New Jersey?
Jacq on September 10, 2018:
Are Argentine Tegus legal to own in NJ? Thanks for the help!
Gxhfyv on September 06, 2018:
Why did you not Mention otters
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 28, 2018:
Rocco: Of course
Rocco on August 28, 2018:
Are chinchillas legal in nj
Askdk on July 27, 2018:
Can i own a dinosaurs?
tchubs on July 04, 2018:
sugar gliders are fine
Kitana Jones on June 26, 2018:
Are hognose snakes allowed. Ik they are venomous but its a mild venom that is only dangerous to frogs and other amphibians.
ButtNugget27 on June 17, 2018:
Can you have Axolotles In NJ?
Nevarez on May 12, 2018:
Is it legal to have a squirrel moneky n nj
aaron on May 07, 2018:
can I have a pet cheetah in NJ?
Sparkplug on March 16, 2018:
Are sugar gliders illegal
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 09, 2018:
Okcat on February 08, 2018:
Are bearded dragons allowed
absdec on October 30, 2017:
can you own a cacomistle in NJ?
crml on October 08, 2017:
can u own a sloth in nj
tj on September 27, 2017:
everything is illegal in NJ.
AG on September 16, 2017:
Well i have a neighbor who own a big in New jersey. So if he has one then you should be able to
k on September 12, 2017:
what about pigs? is it legal?
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 18, 2017:
Not sure, probably not.
Nigel on June 17, 2017:
What about a wolfdog
ManNewt on May 29, 2017:
I thought there might be a loop hole that can be used to own lemurs in New Jersey.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 29, 2017:
Big cats, primates, bears, venomous snakes, alligators, rhinos, ect. The list goes on and on.
Kaitlyn on May 27, 2017:
What is not allowed to be owned in New Jersey
AP on March 15, 2017:
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.
ManNewt on March 11, 2017:
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.