10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal to Own in New York State

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.

Which Exotic Animals Are Legal Pets in New York State?

Most exotic animals are regulated by the Department of Conservation (DEC). When it comes to exotic pets, ‘The Big 5’ are defined as 'wild animals' and are illegal as they are in many states. These animals include bears, primates, big cats, canids, venomous and large reptiles (crocodilians, large constrictor snakes, and large monitor lizards). A lot more animals are legal in New York State, as opposed to New York City, where most animals are illegal.

Note: All information comes from online resources and personal knowledge. You should contact your state’s agency as well as your city, county, and neighborhood association if you are serious about adopting uncommon exotic pets.

The pictured coati is albino
The pictured coati is albino

1. Coatimundi

This long-nosed South American relative of the raccoon should be legal according to the New York’s wild animal ordinance since it is not a native animal it doesn’t fall under any native game laws. The coatimundi is a relatively large animal with reasonable intelligence and capable dexterity.

Source

2. Binturong

This large creature is famous for having an odor that resembles popcorn. Also called a bearcat but not a member of the feline family, binturongs may look dangerous but most of them living in pet situations are even-tempered. Since they do not fall in the category of a non-domesticated member of felidae and they are non-native to New York, they are not a regulated species in the state.

Fennec Foxes Are Legal Pets in New York State
Fennec Foxes Are Legal Pets in New York State | Source

3. Fennec Fox

Luckily for New Yorkers, fennec foxes are the only species from ‘The Big 5’ that are legal to own in the state. Before the animal ban was finalized in NYS, fennec fox owners brought their pets to meet legislators and with the truth that at least some exotic pets aren’t so bad staring them in the face, this species was exempted. It’s too bad more owners of more species didn’t come forward and perhaps prove the truth that should be obvious: minimally, smaller exotic pets are not any more dangerous than dogs and cats and should never be banned. Unfortunately, that leaves other small fox species like the bat-eared fox illegal.

4. Kinkajou

All primates are illegal as pets in New York, but a kinkajou can make a similar-looking replacement. They are actually in the raccoon family, but possess a prehensile tail and monkey-like form. Like primates, they should have a spacious enclosure and lead a mentally active lifestyle. Some people report that they can have a nasty side. They won’t be killing anyone but you will want to avoid a bite from a kinkajou’s decently-sized dentition.

5. Wallaby

Exotic marsupials are legal in New York. This includes sugar gliders, short-tailed opossums, wallabies and kangaroos. The animals are unusual but harmless to the general public.

Unfortunately for one wallaby owner in Westchester, their well-cared for pet escaped its enclosure in 2014. Macropods require secure outdoor housing.

6. Hyena?

There may very well be a loophole in New York’s ‘Big 5’ ban; it seems to leave out members of hyaenidae, which include the aardwolf, striped hyena and spotted hyena. People mistakenly think these are part of the canine family, but they are in their own group and are more closely related to cats, being feliforms. This makes hyenas technically legal in New York State.

However, should someone be found with a hyena, it is certain the officials will realize their error and enact an emergency update to the law, and without a grandfather clause, the bold owner might be in some trouble. It is likely no city or county would be open to approving such an animal as well. Even if they have no existing laws against it, they’ll likely create it.

7. Exotic Squirrels

The grey and fox squirrels are native rodents that are regulated under game laws but non-native squirrels such as the prevost’s squirrel, Guayaquil Squirrel and Siberian chipmunk (which look very similar to New York’s native chipmunks) can be possessed. Relative to other rodents, squirrels can be challenging pets because of their energy and space requirements.

8. Capybara

Being an exotic rodent, this hefty semi-aquatic guinea pig relative can live with you in the state as well as maras, pacas, and agoutis. Capybaras are the largest rodent in the world.

Source

9. Porcupine

Just like hedgehogs, a porcupine can become your quilled companion. They are simply large rodents. Probably except native North American porcupines, the species you can have include African Crested, Palawan (Asia) , and prehensile-tailed porcupines (South America).

Source

10. Boa Constrictors

In New York, ‘large’ constrictor snakes are illegal. Large is a relative term but is better defined by species that have killed humans or are around the same size as those that have, although this is an extremely rare occurrence. Such snakes include anacondas, Burmese pythons, African rock python, and Reticulated python, all of which are banned. Boa constrictors are relatively large snakes and there has been a recorded death from this species in recent time, however they do not get as large as the others, reaching 3-13 feet depending on the species and care.

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

  • Are sugar gliders legal in New York State?

    Yes.

  • Can I own an otter in New York state?

    No.

  • Can I own Savannah cat in NYC ?

    No, hybrids are still considered exotic cats. In New York State, hybrids should be 'F5' and lower. These are basically regular cats. You can probably get away with that in NYC if they just look 'normal,' but it's probably illegal.

  • Are skunks legal to own in New York?

    No.

  • Can I own tarantulas in New York City?

    Venomous animals aren't legal.

Comments

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    • profile image

      ji ge 

      11 days ago

      can i keep an octopus in NYS?

    • profile image

      Rob 

      2 weeks ago

      Can I own a KINKAJOU on long island NY?

    • profile image

      Emily 

      4 weeks ago

      Yo. I wanna sugar glider. Me pet.

    • profile image

      Melinda Martin 

      2 months ago

      Yes u can have a hedgehog in ny state lots of ppl do

    • profile image

      Ava-Milan Hernández 

      3 months ago

      Can you own a hegehog in NYC please answer

    • profile image

      Toni VanScott 

      3 months ago

      Can I own a macaw in New York

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      4 months ago from New York

      Crocodilians aren't legal in New York.

    • profile image

      joe 

      4 months ago

      can i own dwarf caiman in NY

    • profile image

      Lavvy 

      4 months ago

      Can you own a flying lizard in New York state?

    • profile image

      Khyra 

      5 months ago

      Can you own a mini pig in ny state ?

    • profile image

      Jayden Lee 

      6 months ago

      Can you own a Lion and a tiger in New York State

    • profile image

      Lela 

      6 months ago

      Can you own a teacup pig?

    • profile image

      Jayden Lee 

      7 months ago

      Can you own a Zebra , a Giraffe and a Ostrich In New York State

    • profile image

      Chris 

      7 months ago

      Can you own a mink in New York state

    • profile image

      Ysmarjuri Gabin 

      7 months ago

      Are bearded dragons legal in New York City ?

    • profile image

      Allyssa 

      7 months ago

      Can you own a mini pig Suffolk county, Long Island?

    • profile image

      Chris 

      8 months ago

      What type of lizards can I own in ny?

    • profile image

      Kristy 

      12 months ago

      Can u own a mini pig in nys

    • profile image

      Logan 

      14 months ago

      Can you have a raccoon

    • profile image

      Banana 

      15 months ago

      Are sheep legal as pets in NYC?

    • profile image

      Dassy 

      15 months ago

      Can I have an ocelot in New York

    • profile image

      ken c. 

      16 months ago

      boas are not illegal the only boa that is is the anaconda both green,and yellow and speckled etc.

    • profile image

      Jayden Lee 

      16 months ago

      Can you own a elephant in New York state

    • profile image

      Zakk 

      19 months ago

      Boa's are legal to own in New York.

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      23 months ago from New York

      Probably.

    • profile image

      HEDGEHOGS? 

      23 months ago

      are hedgehogs legal in long Island??

    • profile image

      Cathy 

      23 months ago

      Are hedgehogs legal in NY?

    • profile image

      Anybody looking for raccoon pets 

      2 years ago

      If you’re looking poking for a Pet raccoon message me. Across the street there’s an infestation u can have them all

    • profile image

      Marlon hernandez 

      2 years ago

      can i have a pet racoon in new york if i can were can i get one

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Nope.

    • profile image

      Hi 

      2 years ago

      Can you have a pet monkey in ny state

    • profile image

      Sally 

      2 years ago

      Sugar gliders are legal in New York State, however, in the 5 boroughs of NYC and some western cities of NYS, they are illegal.

    • profile image

      Cyndy 

      2 years ago

      Irresposible tenant let boa escape. Are they legal in nassau county, ny

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Yes, peafowl are legal in most places, maybe all.

    • profile image

      Charlene 

      2 years ago

      Can you have a pet arctic fox in New York State

    • profile image

      Jen 

      2 years ago

      Still researching fennics but I have a cpl questions, do they get along well with older children in the home? Are they very territorial? Do they spray like a cat or stink like a ferret? They don't seem to require alot of maintenance to be a happy part of the family, am i correct here or have i missed something? Thank you for the information you provide it is very helpful.

    • profile image

      Bob 

      2 years ago

      Hmmm, Dogs and cats are carnivores, why aren't they banned?

      and dont use they "domesticated" word....almost any animal (with some exceptions) can be domesticated if raised from a newborn.

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Just fennecs.

    • profile image

      Batbun Away 

      2 years ago

      So fennel foxes are A-OK. What about other types of fox?

    • profile image

      linda Iacono 

      2 years ago

      Those sugar gliders are so cute, but I have enough trouble sleeping. I'm glad I didn't impulse buy. Every one should check out just you'e in for. But they are just too cute. Do cats mingle with sugar gliders? ty

    • profile image

      AdamNy 

      2 years ago

      DebbieDoubtful. Their is a difference between NYC and NYS.

    • profile image

      cool kid 

      2 years ago

      can you have a pet Alaskan munk

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Debbie Doubtful: nope

    • profile image

      Debbie Doubtful 

      2 years ago

      Well im glad I read NY Dept of Health website after reading this page...To author, there is some misinformation on here, specifically squirrel, boa constrictors are illegal in NY...and so are sugar gliders

    • profile image

      AP 

      2 years ago

      A lot of states blanket ban all carnivores, and those that don't usually ban hyenas. In terms of what animals seem to be most commonly banned I'd say it's a "big four" of carnivorans, primates, crocodilians, and venomous snakes. (Elephants are also usually banned, but anyone who can afford to keep an elephant can afford to jump through the hoops to become an educational facility of some sort.)

      A second tier of commonly-banned animals includes native mammals, deer, bats, and armadillos (all due to disease concerns), Virginia opossums (caught up in furbearer regulations), large constricting snakes (due to safety concerns) and quaker parakeets (due to environmental concerns, though as those have proven unfounded those laws are being slowly repealed).

      I think "Born Free" focuses on getting carnivores and primates banned in particular, and this explains why marmosets and tamarins aren't exempted from primate bans, as the are in many jurisdictions in Europe. Any state which at least bans those animals is a good start in their eyes, though they also lobbied Massachusetts not to legalize sugar gliders, showing that they're opposed to all exotic animal ownership and probably all animal ownership period.

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      Nope.

    • profile image

      Tori 

      2 years ago

      I thought sugar gliders were illegal in New York.

    • profile image

      ManNewt 

      2 years ago

      Don't worry, you can place the venomous reptiles and the big reptiles on the same category as intimidating reptiles, and voilà five groups.

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      2 years ago from New York

      I forgot to add them. Too bad, I wanted it to stay at 5.

    • profile image

      ManNewt 

      2 years ago

      If primates arenot on the big 5, then why are they banned?

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