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10 Exotic Pets That Are Legal in Arizona

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

Read on to learn about 10 exotic animals that you can care for in Arizona. You'll also find information related to Arizona wildlife laws and their reasoning.

Read on to learn about 10 exotic animals that you can care for in Arizona. You'll also find information related to Arizona wildlife laws and their reasoning.

Owning an Exotic Pet in Arizona

While Arizona has a fairly restrictive no-go list for exotic animal ownership, there are still a decent number of exotics you can keep in the state. That said, if you hate extreme heat or want a much wider choice of exotic pets to keep, Arizona might not be the state for you. That's because the state experiences consistently high temperatures into the 90s and extensive, exotic animal bans that are surprising and don’t really make sense.

Arizona's Overly Restrictive Exotic Animal Laws

Many completely harmless animals that are unlikely to become an environmental problem in North America (and certainly not Arizona) are prohibited; including tenrecs, fennec foxes, squirrels, sloths, and freshwater stingrays. The state also has some rather silly inclusions to their restricted pet list, including the order Lamniformes, (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 could be properly maintained. And in contrast, Arizona's neighboring state, Nevada, has very lenient laws.

Nogales, AZ Deemed "Superhighway" for Trafficked Wildlife

Taking all of this into account, it should be noted that one reason Arizona may have such restrictive exotic wildlife laws is that Nogales, Arizona is a U.S.-Mexico border crossing that has been identified as a "superhighway" that wildlife traffickers from Latin America utilize as an entry-point into the U.S.

Writing for the Arizona Daily Star, Emily Ellis notes that

In Nogales alone, 1,616 shipments of live animals and animal products were denied entry between 2005 and 2014, earning the designation of a “superhighway” for trafficked wildlife and placing second only to El Paso-Juarez as the most commonly used route in the country, a 2016 report from Defenders of Wildlife found. (2018)

To help any Arizona residents who might want to care for an exotic pet, this article will help you quickly identify a few species that are completely okay in Arizona. The state's exotics laws are a bit inexplicable; nevertheless, here are the 10 exotic animals you can keep in Arizona that this article covers.

10 Exotic Animals to Own in Arizona

  1. Hedgehogs
  2. Wallabies and Kangaroos
  3. Savannah Cats
  4. Short-Tailed Opossums
  5. Capybaras
  6. Sugar Gliders
  7. American Bison
  8. Wolfdogs
  9. Reticulated Pythons
  10. African Crested Porcupines

1. 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 is not related to hedgehogs but is very similar in appearance and size, is 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.

Learn how to be a good hedgehog owner before you decide to buy your first one.


2. 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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Read More From Pethelpful

Before you make the big decision to care for a kangaroo or a wallaby, be sure to do extensive research. As I previously mentioned, kangaroos are pretty big creatures and capable of injuring people. Be sure you know the facts and are completely prepared. Learn all the basics for wallaby care here.


3. Savannah Cats

Savannah cats are hybrid animals that contain domesticated cats 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.

Learn the basics of housing and caring for a hybrid domestic cat before you decide to make a serious bid for a Savannah cat.


4. 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 Virginia opossum, which is native to North America. 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.


5. 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 walked on a leash 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.

If you're at all interested in obtaining a capybara, learn the basics first. Then be sure to speak with exotic wildlife specialists and veterinarians.


6. 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.

Before deciding whether a sugar glider is right for you, read up on some of their general pet-keeping info. It might also be helpful to consider some reasons why a sugar glider might not make the greatest pet.


7. 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.

If you've got your mind set on procuring an American bison, be sure to be familiar with the species and understand their general care.


8. 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.

If you have an interest in raising a wolfdog, be sure to do your homework. Start with understanding their general temperament and needs, and then speak with a few specialists.


9. 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.

If you're considering getting your own reticulated python, be sure to thoroughly understand their basic needs and speak with some snake specialists prior to making a final decision.


10. 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.

If you've got an interest in getting your own African crested porcupine, understand the basics before you make any decisions, and be certain to do extensive research and speak with specialists.

Sources and Further Reading

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it legal to have a coydog as a pet in Arizona?

Answer: No.

Question: Can I own a finger monkey in the state of Arizona?

Answer: No.

Question: is it legal to have a raccoon as a pet in AZ?

Answer: No.

Question: Can you have macaws in Arizona?

Answer: Pretty sure you can have them in 49, perhaps even all 50 states.

© 2018 Melissa A Smith


Astrolito on September 06, 2020:

Can you own monkeys from Cambodia in Arizona.?

N.s on September 04, 2020:

Can i have a pet duck

J.B. on September 03, 2020:

Are you allowed to have a Zebra in Arizona?

Genesis on August 26, 2020:

Are alpacas legal to own as pets in AZ?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 06, 2020:

Person Person: No.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 31, 2020:

Fennecs aren't legal in AZ.

anonymous on July 29, 2020:

are those cutie fennecs legal to keep as a pet here in AZ. Cuz when i grow up i want one as a pet. If not ill just move to somewhere where it is legal, then adopt one.

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 26, 2020:

Issac: no

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 19, 2020:

Tia Butler: They are not.

saniah shumate on July 14, 2020:

are tiger cubs legal in arizona?

Tia Butler on July 12, 2020:

Can you have a pet fox in AZ? Currently own one and looking to move

Brisa on July 04, 2020:

Is one allowed to own a Pure Blood wolve as a pet legally in Arizona? (more specifically Phoenix Arizona)

Isaac on July 02, 2020:

Is it legal to own a Cheetah in arizona?

Kayden on June 28, 2020:

Are monks legal in Arizona and can you buy them?

bella on June 14, 2020:

Are chameleons legal in Arizona ?

Person Person on May 14, 2020:

Can I have a meerkat in Yuma Arizona?

No name on May 07, 2020:

What about peacocks?

confused, on April 29, 2020:

your 100% positve that sugar gliders are legal to own in Arizona without a permit?, also are there any fruits you shoudn't feed your sugar glider?

me on March 30, 2020:

No Yaya ferrets are legal in AZ

Abbi on March 04, 2020:

Can you have a squirrel in AZ?

Yaya on February 27, 2020:

Are ferrets illegal in Arizona

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on November 24, 2019:

Jon- All of them.

Jon on November 14, 2019:

So it says that the fennec fox is illegal, does it include the arctic fox or just foxes all together?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on August 18, 2019:

Foxes are illegal in AZ.

Random person on July 29, 2019:

What about a fox?

Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 27, 2019:

That doesn't make sense at all considering many 'domesticated' animals have proliferated in the environment such as goldfish, cats, and horses. People in 'the state' can really be clueless about animals.

Rat Lover on March 26, 2019:

Hedgehogs became legal in 2016 after the state realized the ones in the oet trade were now domesticated and could no longer survive in the wild.

It sucks most exotics are illegal here, I absolutely love rodents (mostly rats) i'd die happy having a gambian pouch rat companion! For now I will tend to my colony of 12 fancy rats heheh

Kennedy on March 07, 2019:

A coyote would be amazing to own. However, would a fox, maybe a red tail be legal in AZ?? Would the heat be safe for a fox???

coydog be like on January 07, 2019:

Melisa how many animals do you have?

swift on November 23, 2018:

No, you cannot have wolfdogs in az.

Bloop on October 19, 2018:

Can’t have giant snails but wallaby’s are ok!?

Anonymous on June 11, 2018:

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 W Fish from Raleigh on May 22, 2018:

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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