Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.
Florida is an unusual state when it comes to exotic pet laws, and there are both good and bad aspects of their regulations.
- The good: Florida allows quite a few smaller exotic pets that are largely banned in other states for no logical reason. The only catch is that most of them require permits, but the good news is that these permits are no-cost and have reasonable requirements, so anyone can obtain them. Florida groups animals into "classes" based on the apparent "danger" they present to the public. Class 3 animals are legal with the obtainable permit.
- The bad: While most small animals are legal, a few small to medium-sized animals are listed as Class 2 or even 1 wildlife species. This means they cannot be owned without a permit. The requirements in this case are strict, and often require hands-on experience with the specific species which is hard to come by.
For a Class 3 permit, you are asked some basic questions about the species you are applying for and how you plan to care for it. In my humble opinion, I don't see a need to require permits for most of the species listed, and Class 2 animals should be moved down to the rules for 3. The only species that should require experience and/or inspections should be truly dangerous animals, such as big cats (not including the cheetah, snow leopards, and medium-sized cats), elephants, and great apes. I do, however, truly appreciate that this state has taken the time to figure out how to regulate exotic pets fairly without stripping people of their rights. Florida also has an Exotic Pet Amnesty Day, which allows people to turn in unwanted or illegal exotic pets while educating the public about pet care.
Florida is one of the few states that allow bats as pets, provided they are not taken from the wild (you wouldn't want to take in a potential rabies vector from the wild, anyway). The most common species of bat that people keep as pets are fruit bats. They are unique but require a lot of enclosure space for their size. Bats should have a suitable large aviary that they can fly around in.
2. New Guinea Singing Dog
There's a lot of controversy on where these animals fall on the spectrum in terms of being considered "wildlife." Many see New Guinea Singing Dogs as just another breed of canine that has descended from feral dogs, but others consider them to be a 'wild dog' like a wolf or jackal. Unfortunately, Florida has recently decided to consider them to be wild animals, but they've been placed as Class 3 wildlife, so they are still obtainable. While these canids are not suitable for everyone, their higher maintenance is not unlike other active breeds of dogs.
In most states, owning wild deer is illegal, and this is also the case in Florida. However, if you apply for a $50 permit, you can own both native and non-native captive-bred deer species that don't come from the wild. You will need to fill out a Game Farm License Application, which doesn't appear to restrict ownership for private purposes. All animals that are considered game require this license. This also includes grey squirrels, rabbits, wild hogs, elk, antelope, buffalo, but not bison. You will need to erect an 8-foot tall "deer-proof" fence or abide by the standards required for your species. White-tailed deer, axis deer, and the smaller dog-sized muntjac deer are examples of deer that are kept as pets.
As they fall into the realm of Class 3 wildlife, sloths, which are receiving a lot of interest from the public as pets, are legal with the permit, although they are expensive and difficult to care for. These animals should never be purchased by first-time exotic pet owners, and they require a large enclosure and specific temperatures. Florida does have a hospital climate for them to remain outdoors for most of the year, however.
5. Asian Leopard Cat
Most felines in Florida are grouped as either Class 2 or 1 Wildlife. This includes all big cats (lions, puma, tigers, leopard) and some smaller cats (servals, caracals, bobcats, and lynxes). This leaves only some smaller less well-known cats as being grouped as Class 3 Wildlife. The Asian Leopard Cat is the precursor for producing the popular domesticated Bengal cat breed. Jungle cats are another uncommon species of wild cat that are legal.
These little primates, the so-called "finger monkeys," are popular animals for first-time monkey owners. These and many other smaller primates (squirrel monkeys, tamarins, owl monkeys, lemurs, bush babies) are legal with a Class 3 permit. Larger monkies such as macaques and patas monkeys (as well as gibbons, which are lesser apes) are placed as Class 2 Wildlife. The very popular capuchin monkeys and a few other species are listed as Class 3 wildlife but still require the submission of a Class 3 Primate License, which requires experience with the species.
All foxes fall under Class 3 Wildlife. These canids cannot come from the wild, but the captive-bred species that are allowable include fennec foxes, red foxes, arctic foxes, bat-eared foxes, swift foxes, and all other species that are in the trade.
All species of squirrels, except the grey squirrel, which is considered to be a game animal and requires a Game Farm License Application and adherence to those requirements, are legal. This includes chipmunks, red squirrels, flying squirrels and more exotic species like prevost squirrels.
Skunks are popular for exotic mammals, and they are said to be one of the "easier" exotic animals to care for. These playful and beautiful animals are legal, again, with a Class 3 permit. Many pet stores in Florida even sell these animals. Skunks cannot be taken from the wild and possessed as pets.
Florida is one of the few states that will issue permits and allow people to own this well-known rabies vector. Captive-bred raccoons do not pose much of a threat with rabies like wild raccoons do (which are not legal), especially if they are kept indoors. Raccoons do require a bit of care and socialization to remain tame and fulfilled, or they can be prone to aggressive behavior.
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: If I find a baby raccoon and take it in to help it get better, but it refuses to leave, what do I do?
Answer: You need a permit to keep a wild raccoon in Florida. Any wild animal that you find should be taken to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.
Question: Do you need a permit to own a squirrel?
Answer: Not in Florida, no.
Question: Are white-headed capuchin monkeys allowed in Florida?
Answer: They are but only with a permit. You need to prove you have experience handling and caring for capuchins.
Question: Are lemurs legal to keep as pets in Florida?
Answer: Yes with a Class 3 permit.
Question: Are owls legal to own in Florida?
Answer: Yes, but only non-native owls with a Class 3 permit.
Question: Are African Pigmey Heghogs legal to own in Florida?
Question: Are monkeys legal to own in Florida?
Answer: Certain monkeys are legal, provided you obtain a Class 3 permit.
Question: Do I need a permit to keep a captive bred raccoon in Florida?
Answer: Yes, it is Class 3 Wildlife
Question: Are otters legal in Florida?
Answer: You need a Class 3 permit to own one.
Question: Are toucans legal to own as pets in Florida?
Question: What permit do I need to own a raccoon in Florida?
Answer: Class 3.
Question: Are possums legal to own as pets in Florida?
Question: Is it legal to have a pet opossum in Florida?
Answer: Yes with a Class 3 permit.
Question: Are Eurasian eagle owls allowed in Florida as pets like in the UK?
Question: Is it legal to keep a cheetah as a pet in Florida?
Answer: No. Cheetahs are Class 1 Wildlife (e.g. those that pose a significant danger to people), and permits for them are only given to exhibitors.
Question: Are Fennec foxes legal in Florida?
Answer: Yes, with a Class 3 permit.
Question: What are some of the animals you don't need a permit for that may be considered exotic?
Answer: Most tropical birds, common pet rodents, tropical fish, various invertebrates like tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes, ect., chinchillas and ferrets.
Question: Is a license, or permit required to own a pet lynx, or bobcat in Florida?
Answer: Yes, a Class 2 permit is required and will only be given with rather stringent requirements.
Question: Are the bigger, prettier, and exotic types of moths legal to own here in Florida?
Question: Can you own a flamingo in Florida?
Answer: I believe so.
Question: Is it illegal to own an African porcupine in Florida?
Answer: No, as long as you get a Class 3 permit.
Question: Can I own a Galaga (Bush Baby) in Florida?
Answer: Yes with a Class 3 permit.
Question: What class permit do I need to own a Fox in Florida?
Answer: Class 3.
Question: Are Callitrichids allowed to be owned in Florida?
Answer: Callitrichids are legal with a Class 3 permit.
Question: Are caracals legal to own in Florida?
Answer: They are a Class 2 animal.
Question: Do I need a permit to own ferrets in Florida?
Question: Are monkeys legal to keep in Florida?
Answer: Yes, with different permits depending on the species. Only Class 3 permits are given to pet owners.
© 2018 Melissa A Smith
Jamie! on September 08, 2020:
Patagonian cavys aren’t aggressive and they are pretty small!
Unknown on September 05, 2020:
Please help I’m looking for an exotic pet in Florida that is small not aggressive and cute and suggests?
Jamarius Giles on August 30, 2020:
Can you own a caracel in FL
thisguy on August 26, 2020:
are axolotl allowed in florida
Alyssa on July 16, 2020:
Do you need a permit to own an African bullfrog/pixie frog in florida?
Belina on July 05, 2020:
Were do you access a permit?
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 17, 2020:
You need a Class 2 license for a caracal.
Name on May 27, 2020:
Can you have a caracal in florida
Miriam on May 23, 2020:
I'm having a hard time finding anything about binturongs online..are they legal in fl?
Mackenzie on May 18, 2020:
this really helped me to know what animals i can have as pests so i can convince my parents on why i want a fox as a pet
matthew on May 10, 2020:
why foxes that makes me sad
Mr.Beast on March 17, 2020:
What happens if people bring cheetahs to Florida
Can you have a bengal tiger in the state
kadence on December 15, 2019:
When I grow up and move out i will move to Florida and have a ranch and some pets this page really helped me to know what animals I can have as pets.
Den Sleeper (not Dangling from a Tree by my Tail Sleeper) on November 15, 2019:
Are Opossums legal in Florida? (with whichever permit?) They're prevalent and we've seen a few Joeys on our front porch.
If not, what is the penalty of owning a opossum? I've seen people do it on YouTube all the time.
Jeff on November 14, 2019:
smooth front caiman
Anonymous on October 18, 2019:
Can you own mp otor lizzards without permits
Anonymous on October 15, 2019:
What is a class 3 permit and how much are they
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 14, 2019:
Bearded dragons aren't illegal and I doubt anyone would be concerned about such a small lizard. If someone is not comfortable about it then be sure not to keep it around.
Js willis on August 10, 2019:
New neighbors brought in macaws noise is unbearable why in the name of God? Is this allowed? This is not the jungle! And they could care less makes for great friends.. fights will be coming over exotic birds unreal
Taveun Ferguson on July 28, 2019:
Can you take Bearded Dragons out in public in Florida? Would I receive a citation or ticket?
Anna.firstname.lastname@example.org on May 01, 2019:
I had colonies of hissing roaches for ten to 15 yrs. I mixed giant Madagascar, Princisia, tiger and Halloween hissers , widehorn hissers, etc... I never had an escape. I went through the container refuse and put it in dry ice. I also used lots of Vaseline to keep them in. A few males won’t make me happy , as a balanced society and the politics of midwifery and their sociology was key for me. I’m agoraphobic and my anxiety dog and emotional suppport bird died right before my mother was killed in front of me. I had to find homes , lizards to eat , or kill my mutant roaches but here is a hole in my days. I still don’t know what causes males or females to be born. Better than any ant farm or sea monkeys. I really want roaches again. M ok with not renting them out to haunted houses and horror films. What can I do, and do I have to do to get another mixed colony of hissers going in Florida? I’ll do it! I just turned 40 and am housebound in an elderly community! They have personalities and I can tell them apart... I miss them. Please help.
Savannah on April 19, 2019:
My dad owns three pet Wolfe's is that algal
bella on March 25, 2019:
does Florida allow finger monkeys
Harper on March 23, 2019:
I’m not gonna find this is Petsmart am I?
Bella on December 10, 2018:
should i get a hedgehog for chistmas?
Hunter on November 28, 2018:
I really want a pet reindeer!!!
Anna on November 14, 2018:
Our sugar gliders legal in the state of Florida
Marc on October 06, 2018:
I far from agree that anyone should be able to have any pet but ones dangerous to humans. We are more dangerous to them especially people who think they can raise any animal but do no research nor have experience with the animals. There is also the situation where these animals become a danger to the habitat they get released in. Look what Burmese pythons are doing to the American alligator. But most fuzzy animal lovers don't care about scaly animals. They don't count. So I bet your opinion is based on that idea. That all animals at fuzzy and loveable. Good luck raising a tarantula.
Evelyn 53 on September 08, 2018:
So do you mean I can have a baby marmoset in Florida because I already fill out the permit to obtain a marmoset monkey. Do you know of any other breeders that I can look up.
Lyric Libra on September 08, 2018:
How does one obtain a class 3 permit in florida
G Hernan on August 11, 2018:
Unless you have a sanctuary for endangered animals, it is wrong to own an animal that belongs in the wild.
giovanni abbondanzio on June 16, 2018:
do you need a liscence to own o caracol on florida
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on February 05, 2018:
Anyone who has any familiarity with my articles knows I repeatedly say that "some risk" is not an acceptable reason to ban something. My dad was attacked by a dog a few days ago. There's your "some risk".
BellatheBall on February 04, 2018:
I appreciate this article, but the opening statement, that these animals are restricted "for no logical reason" is clearly a misstatement of fact.
Bringing wild animals into your home always carries some risk, even if they are hand raise by humans. One only has to do a minimal search on youtube.com to view hilarious and shocking stories of people who have tried it.
Concerning the so-called "Singing Dog" of Papua New Guinea, this Canine is actually considered to be the oldest domestic dog.
This dog does not bark, (like the Basenji of Africa), but rather wale, or 'sing'.
They are used for protection and hunting by the Native People of Papua New Guinea and are really tough little dogs.
They are used to wondering free and not being leashed and do not do well in an urban setting.