Which Exotic Pets Are Legal in the United States?

From left, bobcat by John Fowler, lemur by Thowra_uk, wolf by Rexano (used with permission), and fennec fox by Kitty Terwolbeck, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr
From left, bobcat by John Fowler, lemur by Thowra_uk, wolf by Rexano (used with permission), and fennec fox by Kitty Terwolbeck, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr | Source

Which exotic pets are legal in the United States? The better question is which exotic pets are legal in your specified state. Bans vary from state to state. Even within your state, animal bans also exist in certain cities, counties, and neighborhood associations. This article will give you an idea of which pets are generally allowed, but you should always look into the the specific regulations that apply to you.

People’s definitions of an exotic animal vary. The media generally uses the word "exotic" to describe pets that people fear, such as big cats, large snakes, and wolves (even though these canines are native to America).

Exotics are generally any animal other than dogs, cats, farm animals, and common "pocket" pets such as guinea pigs, rabbits, and small rodents like hamsters. Small reptiles are exotic pets, but they are rarely banned. Parrots are another exotic species that rarely faces bans. There are exceptions to these rules, of course.

The Fine Print

The legality of certain animal species may depend specific regulations. Some animals are only legal if you can meet certain requirements, are eligible for a USDA license, or are using the animal for specific, non-pet purposes (e.g. commercial, exhibition, sanctuary, or educational). This article will address animals that are legal for private ownership either without criteria or with criteria that an average citizen can meet.

Exotic Pet Bans

Exotic pets are often misjudged and misunderstood, and misinformation is abundant.

Most exotic pets are illegal in California, and Hawaii has the strictest pet regulations because island ecosystems are the most prone to invasive species (ironically, one of their most prominent invasive species, the domesticated cat, is one of the few pets you can own there).

New York City is famous among exotic pet enthusiasts for its absurd pet restrictions. Common animals in the pet trade such as ball pythons, ferrets, and tarantulas are banned, but still kept illegally by its citizens.

This list is provided as a general guide and for public interest. It should not be taken as a definitive document that verifies the legality of animals one is seeking to keep.

Always check with your state, county, town, ect. to confirm whether an exotic animal is legal for private possession. This list was last updated June, 2013.


Animals in this category that are sometimes kept as pets include, but are not limited to:

  • Big cats (tigers, mountain lions, lions, *cheetahs, leopards)
  • Bears (black bears, sun bears, brown bears)
  • Canines (fennec fox, red fox, silver fox, wolves, wolf hybrids)
  • Hyenas
  • Medium and small cats (servals, caracals, bobcats, Asian leopard cats, hybrids)
  • Mustelids (polecats, ferrets, weasels)
  • Procyonids (raccoons, kinkajous, ring-tailed cats)
  • Skunks
  • Viverrids (genets, binterongs, asian palm civets)

If your state has a ban or requires a permit for animals in the order "carnivora," then all of these animals (excluding whatever listed exceptions) are not legal.

*Cheetahs are rare in the United States and are not kept as pets. They are also not really big cats and are nowhere near as dangerous.

Most of these animals are illegal in many states.

A sunbear "Ursidae." Animals in this group (carnivora) can be big...
A sunbear "Ursidae." Animals in this group (carnivora) can be big... | Source
...and small (a fennec fox).
...and small (a fennec fox). | Source

Some Notable States

  • Hawaii has the most restrictive pet laws. Almost all animals other than cats and dogs are illegal and any pet entering the state must be quarantined
  • Nevada has the loosest exotic pet laws, where some animals such as tigers, non-human primates, elephants, and wolves are legal to own without a permit. However, alligators, crocodiles, coyotes, foxes, raccoons are not legal to own in the state.
  • California also has strict exotic pet laws, which include ferrets, sugar gliders, and hedgehogs.
  • Ohio (where the Zanesville massacre occurred) enacted its exotic pet ban in 2014.

Big Cats (Tigers, Servals, Caracals)

Big cats can be divided into two categories. There are the "true" big cat species (tigers, leopards, lions, cheetahs, mountain lions, jaguars) and then there are the small to medium-sized cats, consisting of servals, caracals, Asian leopard cats, jungle cats, bobcats, fishing cats, and lynxes, which can be found in the diminishing exotic pet trade.

There are also hybrids of servals (Savannah cats), jungle cats, and Asian leopard cats (Bengals). Unfortunately, these animals are often lumped together, with the exception of Bengal cats which tend to be sold with lower wild parentage. These animals are in most U.S. states, despite the claims of organizations like Born Free. Only about five states do not regulate them. One example is North Carolina, but many counties in this state not only ban these animals, but also heavily restrict more common exotics. Also in North Carolina, special regulations exist for native felines.

Native animals such as bobcats and mountain lions often have special regulations.


The smaller cats and hybrids mentioned here pose little or no risk to the public. Currently, no fatalities are listed for all of them. However, they are often banned even though they statistically pose less of a public safety risk than animals that are considered domesticated.

Smaller Cats

Some states, such as Florida, may administer permits for the smaller cats to pet owners who have met certain criteria, such as 1,000 hours volunteering with the sought-after species. The big cats are considered class 1 wildlife and are not legal to own for private use (but can be obtained for commercial use).


Hybrids may be legal in more states, but this depends on the generation. In New York State, Savannah cats are legal if they are the F5 generation.

Current States Where Big Cats Are Legal (Whether All Big Cats or Only a Few)

In some of these states, all big cats are legal. In others, only certain ones are. The bolded states in the list below indicates places where most exotics are not regulated. Note that many of these states have insurance and minimum caging requirements.

  • Indiana
  • North Carolina
  • Mississippi (small cats)
  • Missouri (with a permit)
  • Montana (bobcats and lynxes)
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Texas (although most counties have banned it)
  • West Virginia

A serval
A serval | Source

Most Exotic Birds Are Legal

Commonly kept herbiverous birds (hookbills, small soft bills) are mostly legal in all states, including California, despite its extensive bans against "exotic" pets. Several species are even legal in Hawaii! But some must be banded and you should have a permit.

A macaw
A macaw | Source

Parrots and pet softbills fit nearly every definition of "exotic" animals: they are not domesticated (despite extensive captive breeding), so they retain most of their wild behaviors and are high-maintenance, even somewhat difficult, pets.


In warmer climates, it is possible for pet releases and escapees to result in feral populations that threaten the environment. Birds even bite, which other exotic pets, regardless of size, are never allowed to do without resulting in people pushing for bans against them.

Quaker parrots, also known as monk parakeets, are unusually invasive in temperate climates and are illegal in California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Hawaii, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wyoming for this reason.

Raptors, geese, and other native wild birds are regulated by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be held without a permit.

Quaker parrots are invasive in northern states.
Quaker parrots are invasive in northern states. | Source

Non-Domesticated Canines

The only canines that are kept privately in the U.S. are wolves, wolf hybrids, and fox species. Hyenas are sometimes present, although these are more closely related to cats than dogs.

Wolfs and Wolf Hybrids

Like big cats, wolves are illegal in most states. Wolf dogs are rarely excluded from the definition and sometimes purebred dogs are euthanized merely due to the resemblance to their wild ancestors. One exception is in Arizona, where they are legal.

Here is a list of legality status for both the wolf and wolf-dog hybrid. The website may not contain the most up-to-date information, but is a good place to start.


Foxes are legal in more states, and some states may allow the hard-to-find Russian domesticated fox. Fennec foxes are common exotic mammal pets that are legal in New York (the definition of wild animal specifically excludes them). Fennec foxes pose zero threat to public safety and should be legal in nearly all states without question.

Fennec foxes are legal in many more states than foxes (red, silver, arctic) and wolves. New York specifically excludes them from the definition of a "wild" animal. They are also legal in: Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Michigan, and there are likely to be others.

A wolf
A wolf | Source

Mustelidae (Ferrets, Weasels, Polecats, Asian Clawed Otters)

Animals in this category are not commonly kept as pets with the obvious exception of ferrets, which are domesticated. Despite domestication and the fact that they pose no threat to public safety at all, ferrets are illegal in California and Washington D.C. No other states except Hawaii have banned these animals, though they are illegal in New York City and a permit is needed for them in Rhode Island. Ferrets are widely kept as pets in California (to the point where many pet stores find it economical to stock supplies for the animal) despite the law and do not run the risk of becoming feral and invasive in that state.

Other mustelids are not legal in many states.

Marbled polecat
Marbled polecat | Source

Skunks, Bats, and Raccoons

These animals are grouped together because they are popular rabies vectors, which is the reason they are regulated (and often prohibited) in many states, despite there being no cases of captive-bred animals harboring the virus.


Based on this list, which should be verified for updated information, skunks are legal in Alabama, Florida (where a class 3 permit is required), Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio (permit needed), Oklahoma (import permit and vet needed), Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Skunks should be considered illegal until verified otherwise.


Captive-bred (not from the wild) racoons may be legal in the following states, but be sure to confirm that is the case before getting one.


For bats, laws must be examined carefully. They are probably not legal in most states.


Non-Human Primates

Primates consist of monkeys, lesser and great apes (gibbons, chimpanzees), and prosimians (lemurs, bush babies, tarsiers, slow loris). Most states have bans on this entire group of animals, with smaller species not being excluded. Primate owners often suffer a nightmare existence with the laws regarding non-human primates. Check your laws extensively (as well as the highly specialized care of these animals) before considering a primate.

States Where Non-Human Primates Are Legal

This list may be shorter now or become shorter in time. Some states, including Ohio, have partial bans on specific species.

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Marmoset | Source

Other Exotics: Kinkajous, Sloths, Muntjac Deer, Tamandua, Porcupine, Ect.

The legality of animals like these varies tremendously. For instance, while kinkajous are mainly frugivorous (fruit-eating), their species falls within the order of Carnivora, which some states ban. Others may ban Procyonidae, which is the order that contains raccoons. Animals like muntjac deer could be regulated with other deer, despite their small size. Be sure to check if there are laws regarding cervids, the family that includes deer. Special laws may also regulate exotic rodents, which can be as small as door mice and as large as capybaras. However, sometimes exotic pets can escape bans if they are not specifically classified in the writing. In New York, some uncommon exotics are still legal because they do not fall under the definition of felids, canines, and bears (such as spotted genets).

Sugar Gliders

Sugar gliders are exotic pets that are more common and unfortunately offered to owners who may be unprepared to take on the care of an animal that is more demanding than other pets of a similar size, such as hamsters and gerbils. But there is certainly no reason to ban them, especially in states where it is impossible for them to survive outdoors (most states).

Sugar gliders are illegal in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Utah. Pennsylvania considers them "wild animals" and requires a permit.



States that ban some fish species do so for environmental reasons, such as protecting native species or the fear that a fish will become invasive if released. Some restricted species in many states include snakeheads (Channa sp.), walking catfish, and lampreys, which have caused massive ecological damage in some parts of the U.S. Banned species are numerous, and vary tremendously in different states.

Here is a list of restricted aquatic species by state. As always, double check the information you find here to make sure it is up to date. Even if a species is not listed under those banned by state law, it may still be illegal to sell, buy, possess, or transfer due to non-state regulations, such as federal law, CITES, the Lacy Act, or the Invasive Species Act. Many of these species are not commonly kept in the pet trade.

Making sure you are aware of regulations is important—not only for you, but for the well-being of your fish. Fish that are in violation of the law can be put to death, even if they were legal at the time you purchased it (for example, this man's well-cared for pet fish of 10 years was killed because of changing regulations).

Notable Pet Fish Species

  • Koi fish and goldfish are illegal in the state of Maine.
  • Glofish are illegal in California.
  • Piranhas are illegal in almost half of states.
  • Freshwater stingrays are illegal in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, and Utah.

Snakeheads are illegal in many states due to their aggressive invasive tendencies.
Snakeheads are illegal in many states due to their aggressive invasive tendencies. | Source


Larger reptiles, such as large constrictor snakes, crocodilians, and monitor lizards, are the most commonly restricted reptiles. Venomous snakes (often erroneously described as "poisonous"), for obvious reasons, are as well. Other reptiles may be restricted for health reasons. Red-eared sliders, for instance, are illegal to sell under four inches (but can be kept) in order to reduce the risk of their transmitting salmonella. Non-native reptiles are illegal to keep in Hawaii because of their potential to live in that climate.

Crocodilians (alligators, caimans): Illegal in most states.

Large constrictors (African rock python, Burmese python, Reticulated python, Anaconda): More and more states are banning these somewhat popular species. Florida is famous for its population of Burmese pythons that exist in the Everglades, but over 90% of the country's climate is inhospitable to the animals.

Venomous reptiles (cobra, mamba, gila monster, twig snakes, ect.): Illegal in Tennessee, Vermont, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, Washington, Florida, Indiana, Iowa Missouri, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Washington, California, Connecticut, and likely others.

A mamba (venomous)
A mamba (venomous) | Source
Reticulated python
Reticulated python | Source

Before You Buy, Call Your State's Fish and Game Department

This article cannot guarantee which specific species are legal in every state because laws change frequently. In addition, it is imperative that you make sure that the animal you are seeking is legal also in your city, town, neighborhood's association, etc, as well as with your landlord, as violating the law with these entities can also result in your pet's confiscation. Be sure to call your Fish and Wildlife Management Office. Do not attempt to keep pets illegally. Doing so will prevent you from being able to get your animals vet care and put them at risk of being seen by a neighbor and others. While it might be ineffective, make sure your voice is heard regarding the opposition of draconian exotic pet laws.

More by this Author

Comments- Add to this list! Do you know of any laws that are not correctly listed here? 78 comments

Mr C O Jones 3 years ago

Wild animls belong in the wild - not in your grubby little back yard. The laws on exotic 'pets' should be tightened up to stop anyone owning these kind of animals. The only reason you want them is for their novelty or status value - because they've got cute faces or you think that owning them makes you an interesting person, but actually it makes you look like a complete idiot, especially when you find you can't look after them.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Hi Jones, I think being able to look after exotics is very fulfilling.

Mr C O Jones 3 years ago

Jones? Mr Jones to you.

Is that all? Not much of a response is it? You haven’t answered any of the points in my post, like the one about novelty value. You may find it fulfilling but I bet the animals don’t. So explain to me the reasons why you need to have an exotic ‘pet’ rather than a normal one, like a cat or dog. Give me a proper answer this time, rather than a lazy one-liner that answers nothing

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

'Mr. Jones', I already did. In our Amazon conversations I gave you a link to my article that goes into depth entitled 'WHY Would Someone Want an Exotic Pet? | A Personal Perspective'. Look it up. You see, I am working on articles that go into depth about every single criticism exotic pet owners receive.

Mr C O Jones 3 years ago

No, I don’t want a link to an article, I want a straightforward, and short, answer to my question here, in your own words. That’s what these comments sections are for – for me, who has read the article, to ask you, the author, questions, and for you to supply answers. Just posting a link is a cop out.

I’m beginning to think that maybe you can’t answer my question. It’s perfectly straightforward – it doesn’t need a whole article. I’ll restate it - why do you need to have an exotic ‘pet’ rather than a normal one, like a cat or dog? Surely you can summarise the reasons?

It’s arrogant to just direct someone to another article you’ve written when they ask you a question.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

It's not arrogant because I created that article -specifically- for this purpose. It goes in depth to answer your questions but you aren't interested, so I take that this must mean you don't really want an answer to your question but are just attempting to taunt me. Well Drones, I'm afraid your posts will have to cease here. And trust me, I hate to do this but I don't want my comment section cluttered with trolling. I even do want to answer your question, really, but I feel like you won't even consider it given that you are mainly here to try to harm me.

Allen 3 years ago

Just because I choose to have snakes instead of a dog or a cat does not make me look like an idiot! Clearly anyone who decides to own any type of pet that can not take care of it and keep the animal and people around it safe should not own the animal. I do not keep snakes because I think it makes me look cool I keep them as pets because I actually have a passion for them and if you think they are better off in the wild then do some research on how their life is out there vs with me. People who feel that I should not be allowed to own a snake feel this way because they fear them and know nothing about them. Pass judgments based on facts and not what you have heard through a media that wants to gain popularity for ratings and other people that fear what they do not understand. I agree people should not keep dangerous animals unless they have the experience and the facility to do so safely but the fact is most exotic animals are not dangerous. People believe they are because this is what they are told but look at the facts. In 2012 38 people were killed by their pet dog in the US and in the last 20 years 10 people were killed by a pet snake world wide. Most people in the reptile community care deeply for their pets but everybody wants to judge all of us based on a few bad pet owners when there are millions of us going above and beyond to care for our pets and keep everyone safe. Based on all of the deaths and attacks every year caused by dogs and their irresponsible owners we should place dogs on the ban list instead of reptiles.

anewman1969 profile image

anewman1969 3 years ago

People fear and try to destroy anything that is different and what they don't understand. It's ok for you to judge the whole reptile community based on a very small percentage of bad pet owners because your dogs and cats are considered normal pets by the mainstream. What if the shoe was on the different foot? People believe what they are told because they are too brainwashed to think for themselves our educate themselves. This type of behavior was forced on you from the day you were born. How long did you believe in santa clause and the tooth fairy. It's not your fault you believed this because your parents told you it was true. The same holds true about snakes. many people believe snakes are dangerous because they were told this as a child. People who pass judgement and form opinions based on hype and things they know very little if anything about makes them look like a complete idiot!!!

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Allen

anewman1969 profile image

anewman1969 3 years ago

Your welcome

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi anonymous! Don't let Mr. Jones get you down, he stalked me over here from another loosely related conversation we were having on Amazon forums and things got ugly, lol. He didn't really have an interest in lampooning exotic pet owners until I upset him. I wish I could afford a 1st gen Savannah (or serval, as the vet bills are insane).

Cassandra Cooper 2 years ago

I actually do research on my local exotic laws and every 6 months to a year I do a double-check to ensure my animals are still legal. I live in North Carolina, and the city laws come before the state laws, so the courthouses direct you to the Town Hall if you want to know ordinances. Anyway, I had just gotten back from the vet's with my ball python from an RI scare (he turned out not to have an RI thank goodness), and an animal control officer had the gall to try to tell me there was a constrictor ordinance banning all constricting snakes and that I had 24 hours to get him out of the city. I went to the Town House on top of looking on my city's official website just a few days later and told them point blank what I wanted to know, and they said there was no such ordinance. I then asked for all laws on animals, pets and otherwise. I got two pages of the city ordinances and none had to do with reptiles let alone constrictors. Now, there IS (or at least was) a constrictor ordinance in a COUNTY of the same name as my city in another state. All these ridiculous laws are starting to make me scared to own my pets at all, though, and it's quite upsetting that my well-behaved snakes are being banned and exotic owners like myself are being unnecessarily oppressed when dogs are killing so many people all the time. I just want to live my life with my beloved pets and not have to worry about when I will no longer be allowed to have them.

I like dogs and cats, yes, but there's just something about snakes that goes beyond owning a cat or dog. Any pet, domesticated or not, is dangerous in the hands of irresponsible owners, so why should a few rogue incidents suddenly make snakes (or any other exotic) completely unsuitable as pets? There are people fighting for our rights, and I will be doing what I can to help, so maybe there's a light at the end of the tunnel. I doubt there will ever be time where we won't have to fight to keep our animals, though.

I am enjoying your articles so far, and they reflect what I've been trying to tell people for several years, since I became immersed in the keeping of snakes and I may even branch out to other exotics if I'm in the situation to do so.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Cassandra. I'm moving to NC in the future and that sounds scary, I have more than just snakes.

Cassandra Cooper 2 years ago

The good thing about NC is that it's very lenient as a state, and the state itself does not ban any exotic animal. The only animals banned in my city are all swine species, and the state laws on the "Big 5" constrictors, venomous reptiles, and crocodilians has become more lenient since last year. They no longer require a permit, but the owners must meet certain housing and handling requirements. There's a nice reptile club over in Raleigh, and we also get a few reptile expos over in Charlotte and Raleigh. I hope you're able to bring all your animals to whatever part of the state you're moving to!

Leslie 2 years ago

The Differences: There is a percentage game at play. In the United States alone there are 69,926,000 Dog households alone. Whereas there are 555 snakes per 1000 Households. In none of these statistics do the real questions come in: a.) Was the animal provoked? b.) Was the animal hungry and acting on instinct? c.) Was there a neurological issue that was never addressed with the animal. In all animals, domestic and wild alike there is a instinct factor that cannot be ignored. Also, there is the temperament/responsibility of the owner and when the two are mixed it can be a potentially deadly combination (Wild animal or not). I have owned 2 ball pythons in my life and they lived out their life with me. The only time a disagreement come about was when my mom tried to pick her up when she was shedding. I do however find a difference between snakes of a small stature and owning an anaconda; the same way a cat owner would find a difference between a tabby and a tiger. There is no stopping this trend to own large carnivorous animals privately, but for the safety of the public I hope the owners are respectfully put through the test to correctly own these potentially deadly animals. Source: 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"I do however find a difference between snakes of a small stature and owning an anaconda"

Yes, one is bigger than the other. And? What's the problem? Does it not phase you that I can't find a single occurrence of an anaconda killing someone? Just because there are far smaller numbers of them? Maybe this is why they should be LEGAL. If no one is dying or if one person is dying a year, unless this is due to the fact that only 4 people own them, why are you worried about 'public safety'? The public IS safe from the 'threat' of exotic animals. Problem solved.

Alphadogg16 profile image

Alphadogg16 2 years ago from Texas

Great hub Melissa. I am an avid animal lover, even more so when it comes to exotics. I have a Burmese Python. I've had "Buster" for 10 years and really not aware whether its illegal in my state. I would absolute love to have a Tiger or Jaguar. I guess I have to call and get more information as you suggested. Thumbs up on your Hub.

Leslie 2 years ago



I was not bashing anyone, I was simply stating common sense. If you are going to own an animal that would normally see a human as a food source, you should be thoroughly qualified to own it. To say that an anaconda is not a risk to the "public" is completely unrealistic. In the majority of exotic pet attacks, 99% of the time it is the owners fault just as it is in dog attacks. Why, because animals act on instinct and circumstance. I am not trolling this post, I just want to make my point clear: It takes a special type of person to care for these powerful animals. Someone who respects that they could potentially hurt them; someone who respects their needs, because when they do not these animals are the ones that suffer. I also am an avid animal lover, and that is why I am defending my position on this issue. Exotic animals should not be readily available to everyone!

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Hi Alphadogg16, thanks, jaguars are rare in captivity and I don't think private owners can obtain them.

kldglangjdab 2 years ago

i believe that Jones is aggressive that many points to his point of view is completely wrong.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Jones is a guy who followed me from another site. He is a 'free-roaming cat advocate' that I irritated when I joined the forum of his 3-year running rants against people who keep cats on their property. It was discovered, due to his folly, that he was either related to his supporters on that forum or using them as sock puppet accounts to make it look like people agree with him. Despite this, he still continues to be active on that forum and me and another user continue to kick him down.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author


Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Leslie, I am just now responding to you because your comment was caught in a spam filter for some reason. Your problem is that you believe anything that's written on the internet. NEVER believe a story you find on a random, non-credible website. Your link's photographic evidence does not even depict an anaconda (it looks like a reticulated python). I've seen these photos years ago and they are fabrications. Please read this before posting anymore time waste BS:

rena 2 years ago

do domesticated pigs that live in ur home require license or shot records of any sort

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

rena- You need to check with your state and city for regulations.

Cailyn 2 years ago

Hello! I was just wondering if there were any exceptions to the wolf/dog hybrid laws in Michigan. I want one SO badly. But I can't seem to find anything.


Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Cailyn-- What do you mean by exceptions?

Courtney K. 2 years ago

i like snakes and lizards and i can't own dogs or cats because i'm allergic to fur and even if i wasn't I would still rather have a snake or a lizard. why, because i have a passion for them and i love all my pets

i've had

7 snakes

46 worms

49 snails

8 lizards

Frida Nyberg profile image

Frida Nyberg 2 years ago from Sweden

Can anyone at all help me with finding out about exotic pet laws in Europe?

I live in Sweden and am unlikely to ever get to move to the US (my only hope would be the green card), so I'm probably moving somewhere else in Europe, but my biggest concern (and one of 2-3 big reasons of me wanting to leave Sweden) is exotic pet laws.

For anyone who's curious, in Sweden the following are banned: ALL members of Carnivora, save for domestic dogs (crosses with dingo or wolf fine if they are F5), cats (hybrids ok if F5), ferrets and *badgers*. Everything else, from fennec fox to polar bear, illegal without compromise.

Monkeys and apes - people like to say "primates" here, but the only thing I find on the website of the Department of Agriculture says "monkeys and apes", not primates, lemurs or anything.

Predatory birds - all of them, as well.

Plus any species native to Europe. Then, being a member of the EU also makes things stricter when it comes to trading in endangered species of any kind. (CITES seems to work differently here.)

There is no compromise with these species, no license or permit you can get, only if you register as an actual zoo, with all that entails.

ALL other animals are fine for anyone to get.

But since I only speak swedish and english, it's very hard for me to find laws for the rest of Europe, like France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Greece, etcetera.

I don't "need" tigers or lions to be legal, but would like the ability to keep less extreme - but still "politically incorrect" exotics, if they are at all available.

(I realize many animals I want, even if legal somewhere in Europe, won't be available here like they are in the US. Like coyotes, striped hyenas, ruffed lemurs among others. Also I really want predatory birds, but that should be much easier.)

So, does anyone know ANYTHING about exotic animal laws in European countries? Anything.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

Sorry Frida I have no information about Europe...

darhwistful 2 years ago

I'm wondering if a Japanese raccoon dog (tanuki) would be legal to own in Michigan. You can own raccoons, and I didn't see (or remember seeing) anything prohibiting non-domesticated dogs, except large and potentially dangerous ones.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

I don't know, but good luck finding one. Always contact your officials to be sure.

Damion Frost 2 years ago

I'm looking around for an animal that is not normal, yet not "dangerous"

I'm trying to figure out, if i should get a fox, emu, or porcupine.

I have worked with Emus before, fully grown, before i worked there. And was such a beautiful, friendly.

I have only watched over a fox for 3 hours

Yet i can't find anything about a porcupine.

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Melissa A Smith 2 years ago from New York Author

"that is not normal, yet not "dangerous"

Pretty much what I prefer. I don't know what kind of fox you watched over, but fennecs are better house pets than 'regular' foxes. Some people keep African crested porcupines, I wouldn't mind having that myself.

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Melissa A Smith 22 months ago from New York Author

I'm reposting this comment with the contact information removed to show an example of an obvious animal selling scam:

Rawlins Lack: "We breed and sell young baby cubs from 12 to 18 weeks old to experienced and loving families. We have cheetah cubs, lion cubs and tiger cubs now available to offer.We also have , Fennec fox,Kikanjou,Siberian tigers Bengals and white tiger cubs and all our cubs are up to date on all vet checks and health record is up to date.Our baby cubs are easy to get along with even for beginners as we take of time to provide any buyer with a care sheet to help them enjoy raising the young cubs."

The most obvious red flag are available cheetahs (a very RARE cat mostly caught in the wild for import to non-Western countries), numerous babies available at the same time, and multiple other exotics.

sexfruit 20 months ago

ay, anyone know if a license is required to have a wallaby/wallaroo in new york state?

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Melissa A Smith 20 months ago from New York Author

As far as I know there is no license needed.

AP 17 months ago


Quaker parakeets are illegal in New Hampshire as pets, but can be held for exhibition purposes with a permit.

MyPetRacoon definitely gets Texas wrong. Though there's no statutory ban on raccoons, Texas Parks and Wildlife decided a few years ago to interpret the laws regulating "fur bearing animals" as prohibiting the holding of these animals for any purpose other than fur production.

Sugar gliders have been legal in Massachusetts since 2013.

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Melissa A Smith 17 months ago from New York Author

Ok, I'll update that AP.

The Dragon 16 months ago

This is pretty cool, though I'm having a bit of trouble with the bats, i'm trying to find in which states it's legal to own a bat (I'm looking this up for a friend who has been wanting to get a pet bat). Could you help me clarify this?

I'm also planning on getting a raccoon (along with hedgehogs, but that's for another time.) and I found this helpful in my research as to what it takes to own/care for raccoons.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 16 months ago from New York Author

This is the best source I have right now, but you should always call specific jurisdictions:

Brittany 12 months ago

I'm actually very confused when it comes down to owning foxes. I have red a bunch of different laws when it comes to Texas and New Mexico. Although, I find breeders in these states as well. So are these illegal breeders? Or is it different in just certain counties? Maybe different cities? I'd like to own a fox of my own, but I don't want to try to take it to a vet and then have authorities knocking on my door trying to confiscate my animal either. Why is it so bad to own a fox? I understand there are still instinctual behaviors to worry about here or there, even then the states seem to act like these are horrible ferocious animals out for blood. Its not like I'm asking to keep a tiger in my backyard (no offense to any big cat owners).

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Melissa A Smith 12 months ago from New York Author

It depends on the fox. Native foxes might be regulated differently from exotic foxes (fennec fox). Breeders have a license to breed and sell. Their customers live out of state. There is no excuse for any fox ban, they are just done out of ignorance. Sometimes they make exceptions for fur farmers, and people exploit that to get pets. They'd rather foxes be bred and killed for fur than be someone's pet.

Brittany 12 months ago

Well at first, when I got curious I found the fennec fox. But, as my curiosity grew I wanted to know if a Red fox, Silver, arctic, etc. could be kept as well since I was more interested in those. I see that the Fennec is actually legal in most states and that information was easy to come by, but when I got to regular red foxes that's when I was just running around in circles without a clear answer. It doesn't make sense to me that they can just ban something as simple as a racoon, skunk, or fox even if there's papers of domestication, while even though dogs are domesticated can do more damage to you if aggressive, than a skunk....

Geophrey 11 months ago

I'm trying to do some research on Red Foxes in NC as far as laws cause im lookin to get one. While this article didnt really give me the information i was looking for it did give me some information on others i was thinking about getting. Thanks for the info, best of luck on that stalker guy from Amazon. People like that can be a real bother

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Melissa A Smith 11 months ago from New York Author

Thanks Geophrey. I'm pretty sure red foxes are illegal in NC because they are native animals.

B M Gunn profile image

B M Gunn 10 months ago from A Place Outside Of Time And Space...Somehow...

This was a wonderful article. I just wanted to alert you about some inaccuracies in your state list for primates: they are sadly now illegal in Illonois and Washington, but they ARE still legal in Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, which wasn't on your list. Hope this helps.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 10 months ago from New York Author

It does thanks B M Gunn.

ManNewt 10 months ago

Mr. B M Gunn you might want to scratch Arizona from the list.

Anonymous 10 months ago

Sugar gliders are legal in Minnesota

Anonymous 7 months ago

As an avid animal lover, and biologist, I just want to say that owning exotics should not be banned but LIMITED to those fully qualified and who have been licensed (maybe even possibly taken a class or two on their pet of choice by a zoologist?). This comment isn't meant to bash exotic owners at all! Almost all of the comments by owners have talked about the love and dedication they have to their animals. That's great! But not everyone is meant to own exotics, and therefore, to own an exotic you should have to prove your competency. My cousin owns and breeds beautiful snakes and hand-raises them from hatchlings and they are his pride and joy. His 8 year old son handles them. They have never been aggressive to father or son, and it's all because they know what they're doing.

All animals run on instinct and have the potential to be dangerous to the owner and the public. A scared dog running through a residential area is just as dangerous s an exotic of comparable size. That being said, some animals probably shouldn't be owned, such as advanced primates, mostly for morality reasons. Captive chimps deserve to be in a sanctuary with other chimps, not in a living room ( my personal opinion on that).

Anyway, thank you for your article on exotics-owning. I thought ferrets were legal everywhere and have only recently begun the serious research needed before owning.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 7 months ago from New York Author

"owning exotics should not be banned but LIMITED to those fully qualified"

I have to say that this applies to all animals. There is no way to GUARANTEE that the right people end up with the right animals. Some people shouldn't have pets at all. It's still wrong to place bans on harmless small species. It's just common sense. Obviously chimps are drastically different from other pets.

richard cruce 7 months ago

to make new laws that we can have real tigers for pets in the of ky

richardcruce 7 months ago

to own real tigers for pets in the state of ky so i can raise them to keep themfrom diappearing

Rose McVaugh 6 months ago

Hello! I want to mention that from what I've read, Indian Ring Neck parrots are (unfortunately) illegal to own here in New Jersey. Not sure if you want to add that, but I figured it was worth mentioning

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 5 months ago from New York Author

Thanks Rose.

Eva Kerr 5 months ago

I find it ridiculous that people would put laws banning animals that are just as harmless as a cat or a dog. Me and my brother both own boa constrictors, while mine is still very young, my brothers is full grown and though he is intimidating to other people by his size, he is the most docile snake I have ever come across. Neither one of our snakes that we've ever owned (he owned another constrictor previously that died from mites) have ever bitten anyone or even hissed at anyone for that matter. Our dogs, however, have injured more people than I can count (although it was by accident) and the same goes for our cats. I do agree that exotic pets are more fulfilling to own, just knowing that you can care for an animal and give them the love and attention they deserve is enough, which sadly the cats and dogs we've owned over the years did not want as much attention as we were willing to give them.

For example, I got 2 ferrets a while ago and I love them so much. While they are a mess, they are absolutely worth it. Every time I walk by them they always stop what they're doing immediately and basically trip over themselves trying to come play with me. Even if I just finished playing with them for an hour or so and they're worn out, they still get excited every time they see me and sometimes fall asleep on my hands or lap while we're playing, lol. And all the people out there in the world saying that different animals cannot get along is far from true. Our cats and dogs coexist in and out of the house and while the cats usually avoid the ferrets (which isn't abnormal, they avoid us too), there has never been any conflict. In fact, our dogs get along so well with the ferrets that they play with each other as well. No incidents have ever occurred from that either. Most people don't even consider how loving a creature can be just because of all the stereotypes they've heard about them.

Me and my mom are practically the same when it comes to animals. They are our children and we love them all equally, they are our joy and happiness and playing with them/spending time with them is like therapy to us when we've had a bad or stressful day. I've been doing a lot of research lately because my mom and I have been talking about possibly owning a pet fox. We live out in the country on 18 acres of land in South Carolina so there is plenty of room for one and we both have very strong dedication when it comes to our animals. The only issue is I'm not sure if it is technically illegal in our state. On the state regulations I read that it is illegal to own foxes native in our state (red and grey foxes) but it never specifically said that you couldn't own fennec foxes or marble foxes (which is what we have been talking about possibly getting). While I've read that marble foxes were genetically modified by humans specifically for domestication, I'm not completely sure if they are illegal or not in my state and have not been able to find a clear answer.

Krys 4 months ago

Sugar gliders are in fact legal in Utah according to the Utah Admin Code R657-3-2.

Lilydirt101 4 months ago

I agree with Mr.Jones you should not really have a exotic animal as a pet they are met to be in the wild and there going extinct and endangered, I mean I live in New York so we are allowed to have have coy and goldfish u can own 1 of those u don't HAVE to own a piranha, I mean if u get a endangered/exotic pet you should get more than 1 so that they can breed, if you don't you are taking away many of that type of species, because that animal could have been mating with another animal of that species they make s baby that's boosting up the number of that specie that that animal is (I'm not a scientist but this is my honest opion) (again I'm ONlY am 11years old)

Dirt101 4 months ago

Can you own a headgehog in New York

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 months ago from New York Author

Dirt101: In the state, not the city.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 months ago from New York Author

It's not surprising you agree with him, as you both don't know what you're talking about.

Fk2002 4 months ago

Is it illegal to own a tiger in Rhode island. I want one but I can't find anything about Rhode island restrictions. Could you help me out?

NovaKay 4 months ago

It's really sad that people have such closed minds in terms of animals. SOme of these comments really show that close mindedness. Any animal can be considered "domesticated" or "tame" if they have the right qualities. By definition, tame is an animal that is not dangerous or frightened of people, and domesticated is any animal that is tame and kept as a pet or on a farm. All animals, even “domesticated” ones, such as cats and dogs, could be dangerous. It’s all depends on the situations they are in and how they were raised.

I see videos of a man on Facebook who rescues wild cats. He plays with them, even the fully grown ones, the way I play with my own “domesticated” cat. Granted, I’m not saying an animal as powerful as a tiger or lion should be kept as a pet by everyone, especially since many are endangered, but many exotic animals are easily tamed when socialized with at a young age and treated with the love and compassion that you would treat your cat or dog with.

I feel certain animals should have many requirements that need to be met to be allowed to own them, because they would need to have a lot of knowledge to properly care for them (bigs cats, bears, any other harder to care for animals), but I don’t think the privilege to own them should be limited due to the fact that they are labeled with the word ‘exotic”. All exotic means is foreign, and LONG ago many animals we own as domestic pets today were foreign. Cats are thought to originally be from Egypt and places near it.

Look at animals like the fennec fox, or ferrets, or even racoons. These animals tend to act very similar to cats and dogs. Yes, they have their differences, but they are not crazy wild animals unless raised in a crazy wild environment. They are intelligent and can be taught many things. Things that cats and dogs can learn. Forms of potty training, basic commands, and love.

Also, many animals that are domesticated are not endangered. Cats and dogs are pretty much the first animals to be domesticated, and they run around the world like crazy. Most animals that are endangered are that way because of hunting (legal and illegal) and natural selection. There are many programs that are working to re-populate the endangered animals. There are a lot of animals that live longer and healthier lives in captivity. When in the right care, animals end up enjoying human company as much as the humans enjoy theirs.

Thank you Melissa for this informative and helpful page.

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 4 months ago from New York Author

Fk2002: No. Even ferrets require a permit from the Division of Fish and Wildlife according to this:

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 3 months ago from New York Author

Thank you NovaKay.

No one 3 months ago

Do you have any idea if salt water sting rays (cownose) is legal in the state of ny

Nathan 3 months ago

Is it legal to have a pet sloth in California or, Colorado?

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Melissa A Smith 2 months ago from New York Author

No one: It should be legal, but they require massive tanks.

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Melissa A Smith 2 months ago from New York Author

Nathan: Certainly not California. Colorado I'm not sure.

mary 2 months ago

What exotic pets can you have in Pennsylvania

Sebastian 2 months ago

I know this article is a bit old now, just thought I'd let you know if you care to update, Glofish and Freshwater Stingrays are no longer illegal in California, and haven't been for quite a bit.

johnathan 8 weeks ago

Are kangaroos legal in ohio?

Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa A Smith 7 weeks ago from New York Author

Sebastian: Amazing, maybe one day gerbils will be legal?

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Melissa A Smith 7 weeks ago from New York Author

Johnathon: I think so but you should check.

Chris 7 weeks ago

Love my frogs :D all 8 of them. They're amazing.

Adam 5 weeks ago

The reason certain animals "exotic" or otherwise were deemed illegal was solely due to irresponsible owners...which sucks bc just like a child tires of an old toy they drop it and move on to the next joyful thing. To be honest I love piranha way more than any bass catfish or queer native species to the state of Ky, but it's due to idiots that I cannot legally obtain something I desire for fear from the state that I'm gonna be tired of them or I couldn't provide the proper tank size to keep any true lover of exotics is going to go through lengths large or otherwise to take care of said animal. As always idiots mess shit up for everyone else.

Matt 4 days ago

In Pennsylvania it is legal to own any venomous snake that you want as long as their not native to the state, I currently have ten breeding Monical cobras and a west African gaboon viper and six hognose.

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