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

Updated on February 26, 2017

Exotic animals as 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.

1. Coatimundi

The pictured coati is albino
The pictured coati is albino

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.

2. Binturong

Source

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.

3. Fennec Fox

Source

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.

9. Porcupine

Source

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).

10. Boa constrictors

Source

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.

Questions & Answers

  • Can you own a spider monkey in New York?

    Primates are banned in New York.

  • Can I own a fox in New York State?

    Yes, but only fennec foxes.

  • Can I own a Hedgehog in Staten Island?

    They are not legal in the city.

  • Are tamanduas legal in New York City and/or New York State?

    Yes, but only in the state.

Comments

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    • profile image

      Kristy 

      11 days ago

      Can u own a mini pig in nys

    • profile image

      Logan 

      8 weeks ago

      Can you have a raccoon

    • profile image

      Banana 

      3 months ago

      Are sheep legal as pets in NYC?

    • profile image

      Dassy 

      3 months ago

      Can I have an ocelot in New York

    • profile image

      ken c. 

      4 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 

      4 months ago

      Can you own a elephant in New York state

    • profile image

      Zakk 

      7 months ago

      Boa's are legal to own in New York.

    • profile image

      Exotic Animale 

      10 months ago

      Thanks for your assistance i got a super baby hedgehog with exoticanimalsales.com it come with it legal permit.

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      10 months ago from New York

      Probably.

    • profile image

      HEDGEHOGS? 

      10 months ago

      are hedgehogs legal in long Island??

    • profile image

      Cathy 

      11 months ago

      Are hedgehogs legal in NY?

    • profile image

      Anybody looking for raccoon pets 

      12 months 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 

      12 months 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 

      13 months ago from New York

      Nope.

    • profile image

      Hi 

      13 months ago

      Can you have a pet monkey in ny state

    • profile image

      Sally 

      13 months 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 

      13 months ago

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

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      14 months ago from New York

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

    • profile image

      Charlene 

      14 months ago

      Can you have a pet arctic fox in New York State

    • profile image

      Jen 

      16 months 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 

      16 months 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 

      16 months ago from New York

      Just fennecs.

    • profile image

      Batbun Away 

      16 months ago

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

    • profile image

      linda Iacono 

      17 months 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 

      18 months ago

      DebbieDoubtful. Their is a difference between NYC and NYS.

    • profile image

      cool kid 

      18 months ago

      can you have a pet Alaskan munk

    • Melissa A Smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa A Smith 

      19 months ago from New York

      Debbie Doubtful: nope

    • profile image

      Debbie Doubtful 

      19 months 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 

      19 months 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 

      19 months ago from New York

      Nope.

    • profile image

      Tori 

      19 months ago

      I thought sugar gliders were illegal in New York.

    • profile image

      ManNewt 

      20 months 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 

      20 months ago from New York

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

    • profile image

      ManNewt 

      20 months ago

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

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