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10 Legal Exotic Pets That Pose No Threat to Public Safety

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a bachelor's degree in biology.

A cuddy big cat, the lion, lying on its back.

A cuddy big cat, the lion, lying on its back.

Are Exotic Pets Dangerous?

The public, and animal rights groups in particular, always seem to have such a negative impression of more unique animals being kept as pets. "You own that?" "How can you have that as a pet?" "That's dangerous!" "It must be wrong for the animal!" And the ever-so-popular and ideology-driven claim: "That animal belongs in the wild!" Well, all animals certainly come from the wild, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be happy (or happier) in domesticity.

The existence of these animals should, at minimum, call into question blanket bans of exotic pets on the pretense of public safety. The goal of this article is to illustrate how pet ownership is being decided upon by the speculative and highly unsubstantiated emotions and ideologies of people who also have no interest in keeping these pets and possessing no empathy with this personal freedom, or those seeking to restrict pet ownership as a whole because of animal rights agendas, thus infringing on the freedom of choice and lifestyle pursuits of others. For more information on this, scroll down past the list.

10 Exotic Pets That Are Not Dangerous

  1. Fennec Foxes
  2. Tamanduas and Two-Toed Sloths
  3. Bennett's Wallabies
  4. Muntjac Deer
  5. Spotted Genets
  6. African Servals, Savannah Cats, and Other Small to Medium-Sized Felines
  7. Bushbabies
  8. Capybaras and Patagonian Cavies
  9. Kinkajous
  10. Boa Constrictors

A reminder: This article is not a care sheet, nor do I endorse any of these animals as pets. I do support open-mindedness, and I oppose pet bans. Always do your research before inquiring about any animal.

The fennec fox licks its nose.

The fennec fox licks its nose.

1. Fennec Foxes

Keeping a small desert fox in a home environment may sound as though this small mammal may be a fish out of water. However, fennec foxes are actually one of the most popular exotic mammals. This is because they thrive with the proper owner, being one of the easier exotic animals to manage.

Unlike other foxes, these animals make good house pets. Many use a litter box with varying levels of consistency, and the droppings are dry since this desert dweller conserves water efficiently.

Fennec fox care may be comparable to that of a high-maintenance ferret. A reasonable enclosure for this small mammal should be, at minimum, a multi-level ferret enclosure such as a Ferret Nation. In small enclosures, fennecs should be let out to play daily.

They weigh as much as a chihuahua and are harmless. Bat-eared foxes are similar animals that are not privately-owned in high numbers.

A fennec fox yawning

A fennec fox yawning

2. Tamanduas and Two-Toed Sloths

I include this unique animal only to show how an animal being "wild" and exotic certainly doesn’t mean it has to possess the danger of a Bengal tiger. Not all animals are ready to pounce on your next door neighbor or bat its paws at moving cars.

How many people would feel threatened by a two-toed sloth? This is an animal that an infant can probably out-crawl. Sloths are high-maintenance pets, and there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about them.

Currently, their captive-bred populations are small, and they are (thankfully) unpopular as pets. To properly accommodate them, they should have a large room or an aviary with sizable branches and ropes to climb on. But with the right owner, the animal’s welfare needs can be met.

Is a sloth or anteater (tamandua) dangerous? Well, look at them. Sloths do possess teeth, and in the worst case scenario, a person holding one can sustain an injury. As far as these animals escaping and running rampant, causing problems for other people, it's impossible.

A baby wallaby and its albino mother in the background.

A baby wallaby and its albino mother in the background.

3. Bennett's Wallabies

Unlike kangaroos, wallabies are simply too small to be any possible threat or nuisance to anyone. So why should they be banned anywhere? Wallabies are mostly outdoor pets, and should be kept in a sufficient pen with available shelter.

Owners can seal a connection with these marsupials early on by carrying them in a makeshift pouch sling in their early adolescence. After this criterion is met, wallabies thrive in domestic settings. Outside of ideologies, no valid reason exists to ban these animals as pets.

A muntjac deer sniffing a finger.

A muntjac deer sniffing a finger.

4. Muntjac Deer

Similar to pot-bellied pigs, muntjac deer are kept by some as house pets, and they are unique to their larger counterparts. Muntjac deer reach the size of a large house cat, and are reported by their owners to be extremely affectionate.

If you realized that your neighbor was keeping a pet deer indoors, that might sound bizarre and destined to be a problem. However, aside from the owners needing to deal with the excessive chewing habit this species is prone to, they are wonderfully enriching pets that thrive with the proper human’s care.

My small spotted genet sitting.

My small spotted genet sitting.

5. Spotted Genets

I can personally attest to the harmlessness of this supposedly intimidating-looking exotic pet. An episode of the show Wild Justice on the National Geographic channel will call them a "wild African exotic mammal."

To me, they are a high energy, arboreal, and nocturnal "cat-ferret." They combine many qualities of different animals, as well as possessing a few of their own, and make a very rewarding pet for the right owners who can tolerate them.

Owners who like to snuggle and hold their pets for extended periods may want to turn owning a genet down—they just aren’t mentally built for it. Genets are very skittish and hate to be restrained by humans, and the last thing any person needs to worry about is their neighbor’s genet attacking them. Scratch marks can be expected for the owner who will interact with their pet genet (mine have significantly decreased since my genet’s babyhood).

I have also gotten some angry nips and the occasional bite due to food protection, fear, and simple playing, but I have survived these superficial wounds. My genet is extremely hesitant to leave my room, let alone the house, not that I would allow that to happen. If he did escape, my biggest fear would be his death, not him "sneaking into someone’s doggie door and messing with someone" (as was literally stated by the Wild Justice episode). Every genet owner knows that is preposterous.

A Geoffroy's cat in a bag.

A Geoffroy's cat in a bag.

6. African Servals, Savanah Cats, and Other Small to Medium-Sized Felines

As the most "intimidating" animal on this list, servals deserve a spot on this list. Why? Not because they make excellent pets for average pet-keeping people (they require demanding husbandry and caging requirements), but because they are so sadly often lumped into the same category as tigers, lions, and leopards, which results in their unfair banning.

This type of ban has recently occurred in Ohio, because when people think of a wild feline, they generally think of big cats.

A caracal cat looking up

A caracal cat looking up

While servals may have an intimidating size, most of their height comes from the length of their legs. They have a build similar to a cheetah (which, despite being a big cat, is also not so dangerous to people), and hunt much smaller prey.

A pet serval is not even likely to stalk a child if, by worst-case scenario, it broke free from its owner’s home. In fact, from what I can find, servals have been responsible for no human fatalities or even any significant injury in the US.

I can assure any person that they would rather spend an hour in a room with an angry serval than 10 minutes with a protective dog on its turf that they don't own.

A serval and a baby Geoffroy's cat.

A serval and a baby Geoffroy's cat.

A siberian lynx lying on a rock.

A siberian lynx lying on a rock.

Other medium-sized felines:

  • Bobcats. In this category, bobcats possess the biggest potential to be dangerous because they actually take large prey despite their size. Yet, outside of rabies cases in wild bobcats, there are no reported bobcat attacks (this disease makes some animals highly aggressive) and are actually said to be the easiest of all the medium exotic pet cats.
  • Asian leopard cats, ocelots, jungle cats, and Geoffrey cats. Asian leopard cats, ocelots, jungle cats, and Geoffrey cats are also small cats that will not hunt down neighborhood children in the event of an escape. However, they do not make good, easy pets. The owner would need to be willing to create double door entrances to their house, have an outdoor pen for the cat, and deal with excessive scent marking via spraying.
  • Savannah cats. Savannah cats are domesticated cats mixed with serval blood. The highest serval percentage (53%) Savannah is an F1, and their prices run from $7,000 to $22,000. F4 generation Savannah cats are similarly tall, and F3 and down are smaller and far more domesticated (more like a regular cat) than wild. They are simply interesting cats with dog-like characteristics. Bans exist for this particular pet due to fear of the unusual. These animals pose no threat to public safety.
A bush baby perching on shoulder

A bush baby perching on shoulder

7. Bushbabies

Welfare-wise, it's hard to defend having primates as pets. This is because they require dedicated individuals who have the animal smarts to understand their complex needs. The prospective owners should also preferably set them up in colonies so that they can benefit from social enrichment. Either that, or they should have a human owner who can spend significant amounts of time with them.

Unfortunately, many monkeys are purchased on a whim by people who believe they can be treated like small people. In the end, they have a relatively intelligent but highly instinctive and high energy animal with retained wild characteristics; hence, why primate bans are so quickly brought upon counties and states.

For the previously stated reasons, I’ve never been interested in owning monkeys without garnering the needed experience and financial means, but I think bush babies differ from monkeys, other prosimians and certainly great apes (which don’t belong with any private owner—no exceptions).

Bushbabies should not to be confused with slow lorises, which are not readily available in the United States and for the most part, cannot be kept as a pet ethically.

Common marmoset eating fruit.

Common marmoset eating fruit.

Two patagonian cavies

Two patagonian cavies

8. Capybaras and Patagonian Cavies

Many states or counties who exempt rodents from their definition of a wild or exotic’ animal, thinking that this category only covers hamster-sized mammals may be interested in knowing what animals qualify for that definition.

  • Capybaras. Capybaras are the world’s largest rodent, clocking in at 150+ pounds. Their size alone would arouse interest from the non-exotic pet experienced crowd. However, if you have a yard with a water source like a pool or deep pond, these massive semi-aquatic rodents can potentially be an enjoyable pet that clearly are of no danger to those uninvolved with this animal’s care.
  • Patagonian cavies. Patagonian cavies are smaller, more terrestrial versions of the animals (both are closely related to guinea pigs) who require some room to roam, and are obviously not dangerous as well.

The idea of a large rodent as a house-pet may sound weird to another person, but it truly is a harmless pet that a person should be allowed to keep if that is their desire.

Baby kinkajou being held

Baby kinkajou being held

9. Kinkajous

Thanks to mundane pop culture worship, kinkajous may have found a way to make a name for themselves among the typical cat and dog owning public. Well, one in particular at least:

Aptly named Baby Luv by owner Paris Hilton, this medium-sized pet proved to be not so suitable for red carpet photo ops. Leave it to naïve celebrities to give exotic pet owners bad names due to their mishandling. Logic should induce someone to conclude that this normally secretive arboreal mammal (from the raccoon family) wouldn’t appreciate bright lights and unfamiliar scenarios. It is also illegal to own these animals in California, along with every other non-dog or cat.

Exotic pet ownership requires some remnants of common sense and 'animal smarts,' and while Ms. Hilton did get "attacked" by the small mammal (bitten more than once), she went to the hospital for a tetanus shot and the bites were described as superficial. There were no life-ruining deformities there, just the overly sensationalizing and predacious media at its finest.

Kinkajous require a spacious cage and need an outlet for their energy at night. Consistent handling will make them wonderful pets for true exotic animal lovers, and they are relatively popular in terms of exotic mammals. Coatimundis and ringtail cats are also closely related exotic pets that are similar. Those who aren’t their owners really have no business minding if someone brings one home.

A large boa constrictor on a couch.

A large boa constrictor on a couch.

10. Boa Constrictors

All reptiles are undomesticated and considered to be exotic pets. Yet, most of them are essentially harmless; however, the words "boa constrictor" may send chills down the typical snake-o-phobe’s spine.

Somehow, this animal has received a reputation as being hazardous to the same level of the two larger species that are responsible for the most deaths: the Burmese python and the reticulated python (death rates from these animals, however, are still quite low.)

It may be of interest to some people that previous to 2010, boa constrictors, despite immense popularity as pets in the reptile trade, were responsible for zero recorded human fatalities in the US. Nor am I aware of any incidences in other countries, but the US is a more than sufficient sample size.

There are many miserable people who feel as though keepers of these constrictors deserve to die, but any snake owner knows that their chances of dying driving on the highway to pick up their pet's dinner is extravagantly higher.

Close-up of a boa constrictor head.

Close-up of a boa constrictor head.

Fatalities Caused by Boa Constrictors

In 2010 a pet, 9-foot boa constrictor strangled its owner while he was showing it to a friend.

Therefore apparently, this species has caused one death. However, one could only imagine the stupidity and unfairness that would result if we decided to ban everything that has caused a single death.

We’d essentially have to ban our existence. More importantly, this article is addressing public safety, and an attack against the owner of the animal is not considered to be an attack against a member of the uninvolved public. So not only are boa constrictor incidences pathetically rare (as are incidences with the larger snakes which have actually killed people with a regular occurrence), but they are even less likely to occur toward a person who is not involved with the care of the animal.

Therefore, outside of baseless fear, discomfort with a neighbor owning these animals is unjustified and senseless.

A Closing Note: Why Exotic Pets Don't Threaten Public Safety

The words "exotic pet" frightens many, but little do many people know that when they support exotic pet bans, they may be empowering bans for their own pets, such as ferrets, sugar gliders and select rodents that they don't consider to be exotics (not to mention breed-specific legislation of domesticated animals).

The word exotic has never been synonymous with the words "large and dangerous," but of course, this is its main association. Animal rights groups are not ignorant to the word—they just tend to keep quiet on their anti-position toward more common and less overtly threatening animals such as hedgehogs, sugar gliders, reptiles, and others so they can gain this group's support to take the big guys down first. There are, however, many articles that indicate their disgust with keeping even small pets like these.

All Exotic Animals Are Not the Same

A common tactic by anti-captive animal organizations (such as The Humane Society of the United States or the Animal Legal Defense Fund) is to ever so subtly, throw all so-called exotic animals into the same category when these groups speak to legislators. In other words, if a chimp mauls their owner, a fennec fox is also responsible for it. If a human contracts monkey pox from a pet Gambian pouched rat, you should fear disease from any other animal that isn’t domesticated, even though domesticated animals are capable of zoonotic transfer as well.

Every Animal Species Poses Some Risk

Can domesticated animals harbor potential pathogens or cause deaths? Absolutely, and often domesticated animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, and livestock are included within assessments of ‘exotic pet zoonosis.’ Rarely are there ever incidents like these from animals that are often banned without question such as wild felines, canines, and other largely uncommon pets. Each animal species present unique risks—this just applies to all animals in general, regardless of ‘domestication’ and popularity.

Therefore, when I say that the animals on this list—which are all not legal in some states—are "not a threat to public safety," I’m not suggesting that they pose zero threat to individuals like a stuffed animal does, or that a person should leave small children alone with these animals and fall asleep in the adjacent room, but that they pose the same threat, or far less, than a typical dog or cat.

Animals of any respectable size have teeth and can cause minor injury. This should be distinguished from a severe injury (all are equated when an exotic pet is the perpetrator), but even incidences of this occurring toward people who aren’t directly involved with the animal are rare or have never occurred.

Blanket Bans Create Misinformation

The legislative goals that animal rights groups are calling for imposing bans on entire groups of animals without exception under the guise that they are all dangerous, even though some clearly aren’t. They know this, but their true goal is to eliminate ownership of animals to support their ideologies. The discussion of exotic pet ownership then becomes a battle of which side can effectively exploit the ignorance of non-animal oriented legislators.

Some people even keep cheetahs as pets.

Some people even keep cheetahs as pets.

Questions & Answers

Question: Where can I get a Fennec fox?

Answer: Contact a breeder and get on a waiting list.

Question: How do exotic "medium cats" not risk public safety?

Answer: These cats have never caused a fatality in the U.S. and generally only pose risk of injury to people who own or choose to contact them.

© 2013 Melissa A Smith


Little confused on June 17, 2020:

Other than the boa constrictor I’m good. I just don’t know enough to really say this but, The rest of the animals all seem right to me!

Name on May 27, 2020:

By the way what exotic pet do you have.

J.Read on February 29, 2020:

Although I can understand humans being scared of animals, I cannot understand their lack of desire to be rid of such fear.

Ranting at this author is in no way productive, or in the case of some, accurate.

There is one thing I am very surprised no one has mentioned and that is that all animals have come from the wild and all cats and dogs have been reared down the chain of their breeding from a dangerous version of ancestor.

Where do people think their pet cat came from in the first place?

If the people in authority years ago were as uptight as it sounds like today's are being, then there never would of been a single pet dog or cat to ever exist today, so no lassie, no beethoven, no real police dogs, no homeward bound, no marley and me, no mr pickles, none of em!

Aubree on February 24, 2020:

I would own any of these animals I love animals and i will take good care of them.

Bruce on January 15, 2020:

I think you give too much responsibility to the owner to protect the public - and also themselves. It's like saying cars should only have safety features that protect the uninvolved public, not the owner/operator, who should just do research and take their chances with a potentially unsafe vehicle.

Jocelyn on August 19, 2019:

I want muliple of the animals on this list :)

I already have 3 cats, a bunny, 2 chinchillas, 7 rats, 3 mice, and a bearded dragon.

My rats and mice are called nasty but whatever, they are very sweet pets to me.

Plus its called I bathe them lol

Bingo on August 06, 2019:

There were to many choices can we vote more than once. Pz

I on May 19, 2019:

I believe that anyone with the right resources and the right knowledge (that can mean anything from going to a breeder in combination with a lot of google searching to owning a similar creature) can own any animal. Even some exotics can be easier than dogs and cats, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't research at all. I am not quite an adult yet, but when I am I hope to own many exotic animals (they are so interesting in my opinion, not that dogs and cats aren't.)

People shouldn't ban animals just because they aren't domestic. They even ban domestic creatures as pets. Heck, cows are domesticated and they still ban them in some places.

And why do people ban animals just because "they are wild and belong in zoos?" A zoo isn't the only place that can provide proper housing for these animals. They should only place bans on animals that are a threat to the general public, and only in crowded areas.

When I consider an animal as a potential pet, I also need to consider if it is illegal. I am not a big fan of that.

I am not a fan of this. on May 03, 2019:

I disagree with animals that are exotic pets.

L on April 27, 2019:

I feel exotic animals are extraordinary pets if properly cared for. I myself have 5 Crested Geckos, 3 Leapard Geckos, a Tortuois, a Bearded Dragon, 6 Rats, 2 Goats, 2 Miniature donkeys, and 2 Peacocks.

My rats get a bad rap. They are called “filthy” “disgusting” and “horrid” animals which, in my opinion, is so unreasonable and arrogant it’s funny.

Thank you for posting this amazing article! I have read a few of yours and really liked them! Keep up the good work!


J on February 28, 2019:

i wont a Capybara are cool

KILLA 401 on February 25, 2019:

tis is true

foreign hen on February 21, 2019:

small wild cats are cool

Ethan on January 22, 2019:

I have 3 boa constirctors love them

gutygyugyu on August 08, 2018:

where is all this info in the article coming from?

Casey Lewis on August 05, 2018:

BS article. In 2013 two boys age 5 and 7 were killed by a boa constrictor in Canada while they were sleeping. Do your research before posting this crap. Any parent would be completely irresponsible to have a large constrictor in their home with kids.

FlowerPelt on May 22, 2018:

i want a Fennec Fox!

Jazmin on May 01, 2018:

I want a mountain lion

Janisa from Earth on March 26, 2018:

I'd really love to have a hedgehog and a raccoon, don't know if those are exotic enough. A wild cat would also be amazing! :D

Sam on January 15, 2018:

Hello I am getting a wallaby in the near future for my b day and I am so exided lol

DD on December 14, 2017:


Destin on December 13, 2017:

I had 2 sugar gliders, 1 escaped and 1 died


Kathy on May 20, 2017:

Yup! As long as the animal is safe, can be kept legally, is not listed as endangered/threatened/etc, it is vaccinated and you have a vet, you know how to make sure you and the animal stay safe, and you can take care of it and make sure it is happy, and it was not taken directly from the wild, owning the animal should be completely fine! Some animals are better off in the wild, but some are fine as pets.

Usman on April 06, 2017:

I love snakes but to dangerous I have a corn snake

Smiling emerald on April 06, 2017:


Frida Nyberg from Sweden on November 25, 2016:

No Chris, a Boa constrictor can't EAT a human, unless we're talking infants. This snake rarely exceeds 2.5 meters (8 feet), and no matter what the size, can never swallow an adult human or even an older child. They can strangle you, but that's a different thing, and is extremely rare, as for a snake to strangle you, they have to first view you as potential prey.

Chris on November 05, 2016:

by the way boe constrictors aren't safe because they can eat a human.

Chris on November 05, 2016:

this was a very great article. I might show this to my 2 period lang. arts although my class finished the unit.

Keysa on September 22, 2016:

I would never keep a monkey.

I'd personally like a Wallaby someday but I'd build the right enclosure first.

Coatimom on August 23, 2016:

I am so glad I found this..tired of all the sites like born free etc. that do not even address how social and affectionate so many animals can coatis literally climb up me when I get home ...a lot of people own dogs and cats and do not take care of them that is a lot worse than owning an exotic. Coatis have brought me much joy for the last 20 years and I recently discovered I will have to move to another state to legally have one.

Donna on July 19, 2016:

Note - the fellow who was killed by the boa was drunk, and decided to dance around with the animal around his neck to show it to his terrified girlfriend. The snake tightened its grip to avoid falling, and unfortunately cut off blood flow to his brain. He naturally fell down, scaring the snake even more, and the girlfriend ran outside.

The paramedics didn't arrive in time - the snake was absolved of responsibility for the accident, and from what I heard, was taken by Henry-Doorly Zoo, not euthanized (since it didn't attack anyone).

sage on June 04, 2016:

i love all of the animals so much

Bill Kelly from Wyoming on April 26, 2016:

I've owned pet snakes for over ten years. During that time, I'm aware of five deaths in the United States.

Two of those deaths involved reticulated pythons that were sick. In both cases, the owner was trying to administer medicine alone. I don't know exactly what they were doing in each case, but medicating a snake usually involves either giving a shot, putting medicine in a prey item and feeding the snake, or putting a tube down the snake's throat and pouring liquid into the stomach. No one likes getting a shot, and anything that simulates feeding can trigger a snake's constrict and feed response. On top of these issues, any unhealthy animal is more likely to react defensively to a strange situation. In both cases, the owner underestimated the response.

The most famous death was the little girl in Florida. Her mother used illegal drugs. Her mother's boyfriend used and dealt drugs. The little girl was malnourished and underweight. Even the boyfriend's pet snake was underweight. Children are often abused by bad boyfriends. This child didn't have a chance regardless of what kind of pet he kept.

The fourth case involved a guy who was found in the doorway of his Burmese python's cage. He had a blood alcohol of 0.2. Good things don't happen when people have that high a blood alcohol. No one is absolutely certain that the snake killed the guy. Even if the snake constricted the guy, we don't know whether he did something in a drunken stupor that led to the attack.

The final case is the boa constrictor mentioned in this article. I've heard that the snake did not attack but was just exploring and constricted the owner's neck in order to climb onto a shelf or something. That account says that the guy blacked out and may have hit his head. Sometimes in martial arts, someone is put in a sleeper hold and just doesn't wake up again. That's a freak accident, but it doesn't suggest over aggression.

There's no case for any of the big snakes being particularly dangerous to their owners. Snakes over about 12 feet in length require a little more attention to logistics, but they aren't dangerous to their owners or the general public. One big danger of any snake over 9 or 10 feet is tripping over a part of the snake's body if one is walking and carrying a snake that is draping part of its body towards the ground.

Thanks for a good article.

uwy on March 28, 2016:

it isn't good to keep wild cats as most of them are endangered and if it is in captivity it does not contribute to conservation and by buying it people create a demand for it and the number of these species in the wild decline. although the conservation status is "least concern" it may drop and there is a possibility that they could become extinct.

but it is a cool exotic pet and I would like to own 1

Jewel on March 08, 2016:

I like all of these animals, except maybe the boa constrictor .......\/013

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 03, 2015:

I don't understand twitter :-(

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 04, 2015:

Most of these animals are 99% of the time born in the states. Sloths might be the only exception.

Yvonne on June 04, 2015:

Yes, but this article without that information is just promoting bad decision making. Most of these animals are not bred in the states and so you end up ordering one on the internet like the new latest gadget. There is no way to be sure the person you are dealing with is reputable, or responsibly breeding or legally harvesting. You have comments of "hey that is cool, I want one" with no thought as to what goes into ownership. This is why there are so many animals in zoos and sanctuaries who began as pets and end up mistreated, displaced, animals with health problems. The same way popular animals end up in rescues. If you have information on how to go about properly finding a reputable breeder of any of these please let those commenting know so they can purchase a healthy animal they can love for a full lifetime.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on June 03, 2015:

Yvonne--that's not what this article is about.

Yvonne on June 03, 2015:

I think an aspect you are missing is where these animals are coming from and who are they going to. Many exotic pet breeders and importers are strictly in it for the profit which can lead to an unhealthy animal and many people do not do enough research into what type of animal is best suited to their home.

Isabelle on May 24, 2015:

Too bad savannah cats are banned in my province. I would love to have a big cat like that. They are so beautiful!!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 16, 2015:

You're welcome.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 16, 2015:

Thanks Kristen.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on May 16, 2015:

Melissa, this is interesting to say the least. It depends on how much environment you have and what your neighbors say. Some of those animals I never heard of before, while the rest I'll say pass. Voted up!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 31, 2015:

I wouldn't say zero, but close. Remember, injuries are also a part of public safety issues, not just fatalities. I recall a non-pet owner getting attacked by a bear (I'll have to do one on them later), and my recent write up lists the potential uninvolved public incidences with big cats. One example:

"August 11, 1993 Georgetown, OH: Two teenage boys suffered facial cuts when a lion attacked one, and the other attempted to intercede. The boys were walking when a “pet” lion escaped from his cage and attacked them unprovoked."

Of course, this has to do with smaller populations (especially hyenas and chimps) and more precautionary actions taken, but that's to be expected. It is a GOOD thing that overall, exotic pet owners have been responsible enough to severely limit fatalities and injuries. But what an awesome site!

Frida Nyberg from Sweden on March 30, 2015:

Practically and looking at history, even big cats, bears, wolves, wolfdogs, hyenas, chimps, large snakes (like retics and burms) and venomous snakes all pose ZERO public safety threat.

(I used your article on dangerous animals for a lot of sources.)

That's what really pissed me off about the new "documentary" (what a joke), called "Wild and Dangerous: The World of Exotic Pets". After they had already blamed extinction, illegal wildlife trade, animal cruelty and all sorts of things on "exotic pets" as one big, broad brush - then they said that WORSE than all of this, is the "public safety threat". That's when I turned off the film, just 15 minutes in, because I couldn't stand anymore bullshit.

E on March 06, 2015:

great article

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 15, 2014:

Only in a few states, but they aren't really in the private sector.

Abdullah Alharbi on September 15, 2014:

Is legal to have cheetah as pet in USA?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 24, 2014:

Jane, not only are Savannahs not dangerous, but neither are servals. That is the point of this article. Some Savannahs have more serval blood than domesticated cat.

Jane Hash on August 24, 2014:

Savannah Cats should not be listed in this article. They are NOT exotic. Though they are NOT dangerous at all.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 17, 2014:

Thanks Ryan.

Ryan on August 15, 2014:

Oh wow!! Extremely interesting article. I'll definitely have to read more of your articles. Beautiful animals on this list. I find it even funnier reading the people replying to you. Anyone with common sense who read your article(s) should easily see that you have experience & have done more than enough research. Thanks for making me laugh. If people believe that the animals listed are meant to be wild their entitled to their opinion. I do like the fact that multiple people seemed to skip the bold words before the article begins that you aren't saying that these animals should be bought and sold legally. Your just saying that lumping all exotic animals is ignorant. I strongly believe not everyone should be allowed to own certain dogs. Also someone said that taking a desert animal & making it a pet is cruel. Well is it cruel to own a St. Bernard or Siberian Husky in a warm climate? I personally say not at all. Thank you for your knowledge and expertise. Above all thank you for actually knowing what your talking about before writing your article. For to many people are doing that nowadays.

Nancy on August 05, 2014:

I have seen in television that there are people that keep snakes as their pet.

Aeris Wright on August 01, 2014:

Great article!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 16, 2014:

Thanks joehelsing, they are difficult.

Joseph Brown from Yorkshire, United Kingdom on July 16, 2014:

I've always wanted a sloth. Great article.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 03, 2014:

Thank you J. R. LaGreca

Jody R LaGreca from New York, New York on July 02, 2014:

Fascinating, informative and well done!

spike on June 29, 2014:

here's the thing most people don't even need a dog or cat much less any exotic i keep and have kept anything from hawks and owls to many reptiles such as monitors and boas i mainly keep venomous now i personally think with the use of intelligence anything can be kept as a pet and i use the term pet loosely

Olivia on May 28, 2014:

i really want a Fennec fox AND a small big cat. I would personally enjoy a baby lynx.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 12, 2014:

ameagari-- You've earned the dunce cap of the week out of the posts I've received, even though the week's not over, for failing to realize that this post is not my ONLY post. I've addressed people making statements like "no, that animal belongs in the wild", for two years, and I have articles DEDICATED to them:

This is why I said "how original". I've addressed these assertions, tirelessly, tediously. About every other week or so an idiot starts attacking me with the exact same arguments. This week, that's you. It's an insult to myself to even try to reply to your points. The use of your Animal Planet link as 'proof' that exotic animals are often illegally caught from the wild for the American pet trade is so unfathomably pathetic. I've probably visited that page 20 times and spoofed it twice.

Just....go. Don't humiliate yourself here anymore.

ameagari on May 12, 2014:

Oh, how original! a rebuttal that consists of ironically saying "how original!"

Melissa, I thought you deserved a somewhat respectful reply to your hub, but after reading your responses to your detractors-- including the one directly above this-- I really don't have enough respect remaining for you to offer one.

Leigh Anne is correct. It's a shame that your desire for a cute, unique exotic trumps the countless reasons that these animals should be given the respect to be left wild. I'm sorry her response to you wan't original-- the lack of originality may have to do with the basis in fact. Sometimes when you keep hearing something it's because YOU NEED TO LISTEN.

I'm going to respond to some of your points. This is, by the way, a subject I do follow closely. I have and do care for exotic pets which have been given up by owners who thought it was cool to have them, until they realized that meeting these animals' basic needs was beyond the ability of any normal home or caregiver.

melissa said: "Where are you getting this information? Is this a subject that you normally follow? Where is the proof that most exotics are illegally poached? It is -illegal- to do that and there are heavy restrictions on wild imported animals nor does it pay for poachers to catch any animals on this list and smuggle them to the U.S. You are free to point out any proof to the contrary."

Try a google search. You're a big girl, I am sure you can find the info if you were really interested in facts. But just in case, here's one for you.

Ever read about the poachers and illegal importers who use /tape/ to bind birds to the inside of their clothing, wrapping their beaks in tape to keep them quiet? Most don't survive the trip but yes, it does pay when the poacher manages to sell the one or two out of 20 that did survive. I've seen the pictures of the aftermath.

melissa said "Regardless of all that it is arrogant and oppressive to ban something simply because you don't agree with it."

Really? We're the ones who are ignorant and oppressive? Ignorant-- my dear that is the kindest thing I can say about you at this point. Oppressive? Yes, I'd call it oppressive to keep a non-domestic creature that has-- by god or by evolution-- been designed to live in a wilderness you are completely incapable of recreating, with others of its kind-- that's what I call oppressive. But it's just an animal right? And you love it and hug it and squeeze it and call it George so it's just FINE.

melissa said: "There are millions of people out there who would love to ban non-vegan food, and I can certainly tell you animals would be a fan,?"

Oh yes, I'm sure the lions and alligators and raptors of the world would appreciate being forced to go on a vegan diet. Oh, wait. Vegan diest aren't natural. What we're supporting here is NATURE, and allowing creatures to remain and thrive in their natural habitats rather than be a cool talking point amongst your friends when you bring the exotic out at house parties.

Melissa said : "What if I took something important from you because I had a trivial 'moral objection' despite having little substantiation. "

TRIVIAL moral objection? Here's my trivial moral objection-- THOUSANDS of exotic, non domesticated animals are subjected to improper living conditions, abuse, bad, unnatural diets, and abandonment because of YOUR TRIVIAL desire to own a cool pet.

Melissa said: "Why don't you think about that for a while."

Indeed, it would be nice if people could THINK. You should try it.

You should also try some research. The data on why exotics and non-domesticated animals make extraordinarily difficult and inappropriate pets is all over and readily available. Talk to anyone who works in exotic animal rescue.

Most appalling of all is your obnoxious attitude toward anyone who has expressed any differing opinion to yours, any suggestion that people shouldn't own exotics. The comment immediately preceding mine where you smugly dismiss someone's very polite and conscientious objection is a stellar example.

I wonder if you'd make a good pet. I hope you have some pleasant dreams where you get to find out what it is like.

Dogs and cats are human companions. They don't need a cage to remain with you, to come back every day and lie down by you on the couch. The animals on your list do require cages and restraint. That should make you think.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 06, 2014:

How original Leigh Anne, haven't heard that before.

Leigh Anne on May 06, 2014:

No. Exotics are not meant to be kept by humans who, after realizing that the needs of the animal are beyond what can be provided, are just going to end up relegating the animal to a life of neglect, abuse, or restricted movement. Exotics need to be wild. Leave them there. There are thousands of exotics that are abandoned by owners who just wanted to feel special owning an exotic. If you really love animals, this is not how to show it.

Muebles de jardin from madrid on May 03, 2014:

beautiful docoment!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 22, 2014:

Jabberwocky-- Her comments were utterly untrue. The animals on this list (fennec fox, small wild cats, tamandua, bush baby, sloths, boa constrictor, wallaby, deer, capybara) are either not normally taken from the wild to supply the pet trade in the U.S. or never.

Many people just automatically assume a non-domesticated animal was captured from the wild. They are probably thinking of one or two animals where this might be true (cheetah, orangutan, slow loris), and of course, this was true at one point in history, but now we have captive breeding. It's not rocket science.

Be disgusted all you want. I don't usually respond kindly to people who accuse me of animal cruelty after having stated a wholly ignorant, made up statistic as a fact. But I actually did not call her arrogant nor did I "insult" her so it sounds like you're just angry that you agree with her wrong opinion and needed an excuse to call my reply 'infantile'.

Your comment is more deserving of an insult. Try using your own brain sometime. Your quotes make no sense at all. They sound like a precautionary warning that blanket every animal that can be considered 'exotic' yet some exotics are far easier to care for than dogs and cats if the owner has basic competence. And of course, more difficult animals can be owned too. I'm tired of repeating myself. It's as simple as the right animal for the right owner.

Jabberwocky on April 22, 2014:

I was absolutley appalled by response to lyndarox's comments. She was simply stating her concern for these exotic pets, and you berated her and insulted her intelligence. She may not have stated her sources, but it has been made known to the public by vetrinary and animal groups (not just animal rights activists) that exotic animals do not make good pets.

Even if that were not the case, to belittle someone for objecting to your opinion shows a staggering lack of debate skills. To tell someone that they are "arrogant" for simply being concerned for these animals is disgusting. Are you capable of a civil debate or just sling insults like an infant when someone has a decending opinion?

"The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have all expressed opposition to the possession of certain exotic animals by individuals.

Exotic animals do not make good companions. They require special care, housing, diet, and maintenance that the average person cannot provide. When in the hands of private individuals the animals suffer due to poor care. They also pose safety and health risks to their possessors and any person coming into contact with them."

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 04, 2014:

Thanks ZookeeperByNature.

ZookeeperByNature on March 04, 2014:

Correction to one of the paragraphs I made above due to a typo:

Despite the millions of Boa constrictors that exist in American households and private facilities across the nation where they are legal, they have *NOT* established a single confirmed invasive populations in the continental U.S., and Florida has even made an exception for them that still allows their ownership as pets whereas they have banned large pythons.

theBAT on March 04, 2014:

Interesting hub. Perhaps, What is important is the objective determination of whether the animal can co-exist in an urban community. Is the "exotic pet" on the endangered list? Thanks for sharing.

ZookeeperByNature on February 13, 2014:

It's not _public_ safety, those are not Boa constrictors you are hearing about. In fact, there are not really any invasive boas anywhere in the United States, aside from Puerto Rico. (Interestingly enough, there are boa species that are native to areas such as California and New Mexico.)

The snakes you are referring to are actually Burmese pythons, which are noticeably different than boas. For one, they get larger, much larger, and two, they reproduce at a faster rate since, unlike boas, they lay eggs instead of giving life birth.

Despite the millions of Boa constrictors that exist in American households and private facilities across the nation where they are legal, they have established a single confirmed invasive populations in the continental U.S., and Florida has even made an exception for them that still allows their ownership as pets whereas they have banned large pythons.

Those that have managed to escape (which is more likely than someone dumping them) have either been found, captured, or do not sustain themselves long enough to breed and die off shortly after due to environmental hazards, such as the great North American cold fronts.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 29, 2014:

Thank Amanda, I hope to get one in the future.

Amanda on January 29, 2014:

I loved seeing boas on this list. We have one (along with 2 Kenyan sand boas and 2 ball pythons), and he's a delight. He's even pleasant while in shed, bless his little heart.

Those fennec foxes sound amazing! Not the right pet for me -- we have enough rabble-rousers in the house already with the 3 cats, 2 dogs, and 4 pet rats, but I'd love to see one up close someday.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 27, 2014:

Good to know they made new plans.

Cassandra Cooper on January 27, 2014:

It's not _public_ safety, according to DNA studies, the majority of snakes loose in Florida originate from one breeding facility that was destroyed during a hurricane. That's why facilities now have to follow strict disaster rules when a major storm is about to hit. People releasing their pets is almost a non-existent factor. The constrictors' numbers are also falling because of the cold snaps occurring there lately. The "invasive" snakes are kind of tropical and sub-tropical and so they don't survive temperate conditions very well. If it is even a problem, it is only one or two states' problem.

I am glad to see boa constrictors on here! I have a wonderful boa who has always been just the sweetest snake. He has never hissed at me, and only struck at/bit me when I was feeding out of the enclosure due to his feeding response. Once I smartened up and began to feed in the enclosure, that's all stopped! Hook/tap training a snake is much more reliable and less stressful than feeding in a separate enclosure. He's not the least bit cage aggressive and is even sweet when in shed.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on January 14, 2014:

I only found one boa-related fatality brianna.

brianna on January 14, 2014:

well I can see the boa cause many pet owners and their kids have been killed by their boas.Most are banned due to more and more Exotic Pets being released by iresable pet owner or just plan escaping into the wild and the black market.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 30, 2013:

I'm aware of invasive species, and it IS public safety because that's what the legislators are saying. That's why it's called 'dangerous wild animal act', ect. Furthermore, there are NO significant mammalian invasive species that originate from the pet trade, but plenty of domesticated animals that have gone feral and are messing up the environment (dogs, cats, pigeons, wild pigs, horses), so that blows your statement far out of the water I'm afraid.

It's not _public_ safety on December 30, 2013:

It's environmental safety. For example, boa constrictors escaped from their owners in Florida thrive in the Everglades; they're multiplying hugely and causing massive ecological damage right now, basically eating every meat they can find. Damaging invasive species is one main reason for import/export restrictions on certain things.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on December 17, 2013:

Jasmine, I made the point you're making in this article:

But the main point is that out of nearly every exotic pet incident, the victim is the -owner- or the person assuming the risk of being involved with the animal, which is relevant to 'public' safety. It is not common for exotics to escape and attack, unlike with dogs, which are traditionally left behind easy to escape fences. If people treated dogs like tigers, I would agree, attacks by tigers would beat dogs, but that won't ever happen. The animals listed here are unlikely to cause a fatality to anyone other than an infant.

Jasmine on December 17, 2013:

While I do agree that exotic animals are given a bad rep, I also wonder have you thought about the comparison you are making? You mention how there are more incidents of "domesticated animals" like dogs hurting people than there are "exotic animals". However, couldn't it be that it just seems like there are more incidents because of the fact that there are far more dogs in homes than these other animals? If you were to take the total of "domestic animals" in homes and use that number to come up with a percentage of harmful incidents and then take the total of "exotic animals" in homes and use that number to get a percentage of harmful incidents most likely you will find that the numbers are not that far apart. So while I agree that exotic animals should not be lumped into one category I also say that what we call domestic animals should not be given a bad rep either. We are all animals in this world and the chances of a harmful incident by any animal that is in a home is almost the same to me.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 27, 2013:

Thanks for that great comment DACA! I wish my state was as lenient as yours. We can only have fennec foxes.

DACA on November 27, 2013:

Wow Bonnie you might want to do a little research. I share my home with several foxes (red fox-vulpes, vulpes) and they did not come from the "wild." They were privately/ranch raised for the past 200 years. They have an outdoor run and they can choose if they want to be in the house or outdoors. They use a litterbox and several of them sleep at the end of my bed. They are so incredibly "wild" that we take them into schools to exhibit them for K-5th graders! Vicious little beasties have nearly licked the face off many an unprepared child (mostly because we go right after lunch)! :P

We also have nearly 20 Fallow Deer and we're on waiting lists for both Muntjac Deer and Patagonian Cavies. None of these animals came from the wild. Most of them would be unable to survive in the wild and would die a slow painful death caused by starvation.

Melissa I really enjoyed your article and the positive spin it put on exotics! We're incredibly lucky to live in a state that allows us to have these critters in our home (with proper permits).

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 27, 2013:

Haha well my snakes seem to get stressed easily so I don't like moving them. Balls can be very funny about feeding I'm sure you know.

desolatefox on October 27, 2013:

Lol! Well, that makes life interesting for you, I'm sure. That's why I feed in separate plastic tubs. Some people say it doesn't make a difference, but at least a couple of my snakes seem to know what the tub means. My young carpet python has only ever bitten me while in or leaving the feeding tub, never in her enclosure or while being handled. While in the tub, she strikes the side any time I move too close to it. I always worry the silly thing is gonna break a fang doing that.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 26, 2013:

My snakes associate my presence with food and always take it as an opportunity to lunge at me.

desolatefox on October 26, 2013:

Interesting article. I've read a few of yours after ending up on Hub to read a review of the movie Blackfish.

I love savannah cats, I swear one day I will own one. For now though, nice to see boas making the list. ;) I have one, and he's pretty docile. A little cage aggressive, but that's understandable.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on October 22, 2013:

I agree cjarosz, these small pets pose no one any real risk.

cjarosz on October 22, 2013:

Interesting look on things. Some of these are so cute! If only I could actually have one. I think people create the scare that they have of animals period. We pose more threat to any animal, then they do to us. How many have went extinct, or on the brink of it?

afffrrrtgjkklll on October 03, 2013:


Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 27, 2013:

I'm not sure where you read that, Bonnie. Getting drunk is perfectly legal as long as you aren't behind the wheel. I think alcohol is a major public safety threat and small pet foxes are not (whether under someone's control or not), so I wonder why unnecessary attention is paid to them and other animals. I wonder, if the 'industry' for more atypical exotics is booming so much, why no major retailers provide any products for the millions of owners of pets like those on this list aside from the snake?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 22, 2013:

Thanks Kallie. They are usually around $2-2,700.

Kallie on September 22, 2013:

I actually just met a guy who used to privately breed Kinkajous for private homes. His prices were incredibly high because he figured if they were willing to spend the money on one of his, they would be able to provide for it comfortably, he also kept in contact with the ones he sold and had them on contracts. The laws changed and he was unable to continue to sell his Kinkajous, but he says that they made the most magnificent pets and were great for 'average pet owners' who would put in the time to spend with these animals. Great article and good list!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on September 15, 2013:

Thanks Carrie. Some animals should remain unpopular as pets because they don't fit the lifestyles of most people, unlike dogs and cats. However animals like ferrets are good for anyone who doesn't mind the smell!

Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on September 15, 2013:

Interesting HUB! the first one mentioned (the fox critters) They are soooo cute. I never knew people had them as pets. I remember a while back when people said they owned ferrets people gasped in disbelief, but now they are very common. I think as time goes by we will start to have more homeowners host exotic pets. I know potbelly pigs, hedge hogs and flying squirrels are becoming more common. I wonder what's next ?

I remember when I was a kid my aunt had a baby raccoon, but that didn't work out for long because it became very aggressive and had to be confided to the cage...thus she could'nt take care of it anymore. Thank you for this hub :) Have a wonderful week

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 28, 2013:

Thanks toptenluxury.

Adrian Cloute from Cedartown, GA on August 28, 2013:

Those are some crazy ideas for exotic pets. Great hub! Voted up!

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 19, 2013:

Steven, it is likely that a zoo that accepts pet cast offs isn't really a decent zoo. Some exceptions could exist I guess. I recommend posting this information in these locations: even here: ... but please screen homes thoroughly. Ask about past experience, expectations of exotics, ect. This is a great rescue that could provide info or perhaps adopt your pet: Please do not just give your pet away! Unless the person has exotics already and you are comfortable with them. Beware that 'road side zoos' may put your animal in a small cage with little enrichment...

steven on August 19, 2013:

i was wondering if it is better to take some animals to the zoo to live or to give them up for adoption coz i really love my fennec foxes but their mother just put to birth and i am on my way out of the country can some one help me?