10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal in Arizona

Updated on May 25, 2018
Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa cares for a variety of exotic animals and has completed a certificate in veterinary assisting and a Bachelors Degree in Biology.

If you hate extreme heat or like keeping exotic pets, don’t move to Arizona. This state offers consistently high temperatures into the 90s and surprisingly extensive exotic animal bans that don’t really make any sense. Many completely harmless animals that are unlikely to become an environmental problem in North America (and certainly not Arizona) are prohibited, and some examples include tenrecs, fennec foxes, squirrels, sloths, and freshwater stingrays.

The state also has some rather silly inclusions on their restricted pet list, including the order Lamniformes, which is composed of large and/or rare sharks such as the great white shark and basking shark, which are species even aquariums don’t have. Arizona’s comprehensive list of restricted species is particularly distressing since the state has a lot of expansive, rural land where larger exotic pets can be properly maintained. Arizona's neighboring state Nevada, in contrast, has very lenient laws. However, despite its inclusiveness, there are a few species that inexplicably don’t appear on Arizona's restricted list.

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Hedgehogs

It is strange that members of the family Erinaceidae, which composes the hedgehog family, are specifically exempted from the restricted list. It seems rather silly because tenrecs, a species that are not related to hedgehogs but are very similar in appearance and size, are illegal in the state. Both animals pose positively no danger to the public or their owners, and neither has exhibited the potential to become established in the environment.

Hedgehogs are popular exotic pets, so it is likely that an exception has been made for them solely on those grounds, although officials claim to have taken them off the list because they realized they couldn't survive in Arizona's climate. Exempting animals based on their popularity seems counterproductive to the cause of trying to lessen the alleged negative impacts of certain animals, as it is the more popular animals that are more likely to cause problems. Both species should be legal.

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Wallabies and Kangaroos

The Arizona exotic animal ban list is extensive, but marsupials as a whole aren't banned. Instead, specific marsupials, the ‘American opossums’, are cited but wallabies, kangaroos, and wallaroos are not, which should make them legal to own in the state. This is surprising because kangaroos are large animals making them capable of causing injury, and one would think that a state that bans small and harmless animals wouldn’t hesitate to add a sizeable creature. Thankfully, these iconic animals seem to have been overlooked for now.

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Savannah Cats

Savannah cats are hybrid animals that contain domesticated cat and serval DNA but in different amounts. Some Savannah cats have very low percentages of serval genetics and resemble a typical house cat with spots, while higher content animals can be similar to servals in size and appearance. These are F1 generation Savannah cats and they have longer legs and prominent serval markings. Even these high content animals are legal in Arizona because they are considered to be domesticated animals, exempting them from the draconian ban on all members of the order Carnivora in the state.

Short-Tailed Opossums

This small mammal resembles a rodent but is actually a carnivorous marsupial. They are popular in the exotic pet trade. Arizona law prohibits all species of the genus Didelphis which consists of 'American Opossums', of which all are cat-sized and the most common member is the North American native Virginia opossum. There doesn't appear to be any other listing for other opossum species making non-Didelphis species legal. This includes the short-tailed opossum, four-eyed opossum, mouse opossum, Yapok water Opossum, and woolly opossum.

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Capybaras

Capybaras are massive, semi-aquatic rodents that need a water source in order to thrive in captivity. They can make surprisingly good pets and can be leash-walked when they are well-socialized. Despite their intimidating size, they present no threat to the public. Arizona law lists various rodents that are prohibited, including the squirrel family, beavers, New World porcupines, and nutrias. This does not include capybaras and their other close relatives, guinea pigs, chinchillas, and agouti, so all should be legal.

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Sugar Gliders

This tiny possum species can sometimes be the target of irrational exotic pet bans, which Arizona has no shortage of. Thankfully, they are not included in the ban list. Along with hedgehogs and ferrets, sugar gliders are popular exotic pets and are so extensively propagated they are essentially domesticated, although some may not consider them as such. Their popularity is probably why Arizona has spared them.

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American Bison

Arizona restricts the family Bovidae which includes a vast diversity of hoofed animals including gazelles, wildebeest, antelope, impala and muskoxen. An exception is made for bison and water buffalo; the former likely so that people can use them for agricultural purposes and the latter for use in farming and possibly meat as well. Water buffalo are a domesticated bovine from Asia that are mostly used to pull heavy loads, but this is uncommon in the United States. It seems to be irrational that Arizona officials would ban other ungulates, most likely for safety reasons, yet seem to think the so-called danger is OK when the animal is farmed for meat.

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Wolfdogs

Arizona considers wolfdogs, also called wolf hybrids, to be domesticated animals, so they are legal. There would need to be proof that the animal is a hybrid and not a 'pure wolf', although most or all of privately owned wolves have some dog DNA in them. The 'wolves' seen in private zoos and being kept as pets are likely all high content wolfdogs, so technically, any wolf someone can obtain would be legal in Arizona, as long as officials don't amend the rules to ban them in the future.

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Reticulated Pythons

In Arizona, many of the typical reptile species are illegal, including venomous reptiles, crocodilians, and snapping turtles, but large pythons, which are often banned in other states, appear to be legal. Other large pythons that are legal include African rock pythons, Burmese pythons, and anacondas. Large monitor lizards would also be legal.

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African Crested Porcupines

Strangely enough, the Arizona ban list includes the family Erethizontidae, which are New World porcupines. These porcupines are native to the Americas and those in the pet trade are the North American porcupine and the prehensile-tailed porcupine. This would leave Old World porcupines, such as the large African crested porcupine and the Palawan or Philippine porcupine legal. This makes little sense and is probably a beneficial oversight that hopefully won't be 'corrected' with the introduction of more species to the list.

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      • profile image

        Anonymous 5 days ago

        Very informative hub Melissa. I know someone who is the "part" owner of a pet tiger in Yuma, Arizona. He has a very spacious enclosure spanning at least 2 acres with grass, a pool, and a waterfall in it, which is a more-than-ideal enclosure for a privately owned tiger. He says that a permit is required to keep big cats as pets in Arizona (and he IS keeping the tiger legally, so he says), yet I've read on your other hubs and various websites that Arizona bans the possession of big cats. I wonder if laws used to be more lenient and he was grandfathered in?

      • Larry Fish profile image

        Larry W Fish 3 weeks ago from Raleigh

        Melissa, I don't live in Arizona, but I have a high school classmate of mine that has lived there for years. Sorry, but to me a pet is a dog or a cat, after that I draw the line,

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