REPTILE & EXOTIC ANIMAL LAWS Overview (in the US, UK, Continental Europe, Canada, and Australia)
There are at least four reasons why keeping certain species of exotic animals (and reptiles in particular) in private households is regulated by the law:
- protection of endangered species
- issues of public health and human safety
- animal welfare
- ecosystem preservation
Some laws focus on one of these reasons while some others cover more than one aspect of the tenure and ownership of exotic animals.
But before getting into the reasons why the tenure and ownership of exotic animals and reptiles, in particular, is regulated by law and into a brief racconto of such regulations, we would like to make reference to the fact we are using the word “exotic” in this article as an opposite to the term “common”, but yet recognizing it is not a “good” term.
In fact, the concept of “exotic” itself is problematic; historically and contemporarily, the ownership of all things “exotic,” including animals, has symbolically represented as the imperial appropriation of non-Western human and animal differences. See Steve Baker, Picturing the Beast 67, 13-14 (1993).
Having said so, and for practical reasons, we will use the term “exotic” with reference to certain animals (i.e. rare in the wild, imported from a far country, with limited availability in the pet market, which is relatively unusual to keep or is generally thought of as a wild species rather than as a pet. etc.) since this is a term popularly and legally used, and commonly understood in the same sense we mean to use it for the purposes of this article.
Quick Reference Section
1. Protection of endangered species on a global basis
International trade in endangered species is controlled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). Of the 10,272 currently recognized reptile species, fewer than 8% are regulated by CITES.
- This convention was enacted in 1975 and regulates the international trade in threatened and potentially threatened species (live specimens, parts, or derived products) to prevent over-exploitation and thereby ensure legal, sustainable, and traceable trade.
- The convention is implemented through an export and import control licensing system, to which currently 182 parties are bound.
- This system monitors trade in 35.000 species of ﬂora and fauna (of which 793 are reptile species). These species are listed in three Appendices each having various prerequisites that underpin permitting trade.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List (http://www.nationalredlist.org/home/about/) has assessed 45% of the world’s reptile species and determined that at least 1390 species are threatened by “biological resource use.”
Of these, 355 species are intentionally targeted by collectors, including 194 non-CITES-listed species. Some of these non-CITES species are, however, nationally protected in their country of origin.
2. Is it legal to keep exotic reptiles as pets? The situation in the US
The sale and possession of exotic animals in the United States are regulated by a patchwork of federal, state, and local laws that generally vary by community and by the animal.
There is no federal law that prohibits keeping any and all exotic animals as pets. However, there are specific statutes that do prohibit possession of certain animals.
The Endangered Species Act prohibits the possession, selling, delivering, carrying, transporting, importing, exporting, or shipping of any endangered species of fish or wildlife. The minimum penalty for keeping an endangered species as a pet is a $3,500 fine for the first violation and a $13,000 fine for the third violation.
- Ref specifically about venomous snakes
- As a general rule, non-venomous snakes can be kept without permission in the US
- However, before buying any venomous snake you should do your research.
Most states do have their own laws prohibiting possession of certain animals. In what has to do with reptiles and amphibians:
Alabama Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person, firm, corporation, partnership or association may possess, sell, offer for sale, import or cause to be brought or imported into the state the following fish or animals: fish from the genus Clarias; fish from the genus Serrasalmus; Black carp; any species of mongoose, any member of the family Cervidae (deer, elk, moose, caribou), species of coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, wild rodents or wild turkey.
There are no licenses or permits required for ownership of exotic animals, including lions, tigers, monkeys, or bears.
If you plan to exhibit any of the wild animals, a permit is required. You also need permits for protected wild birds
Nothing is mentioned concerning exotic reptiles or amphibians.
Citation: ALA. ADMIN CODE r. 220-2-.26
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=AL
Alaska Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess, import, release, export, or assist in importing, releasing, or exporting, live game animals as “pets.”
Live game animals are defined as any species of bird, reptile, and mammal, including a feral domestic animal, found or introduced in the state, except domestic birds and mammals.
The Department interprets live game to include all animals, including exotics, such as wild felines, wolves, bears, monkeys, etc., not listed as domestic under Alaska Admin. Code tit. 5. §92.029.
You can apply for a permit to possess any animals on the banned list, although the Department of Fish and Game only issues permits for scientific and educational purposes.
Citation: ALASKA ADMIN. CODE tit. 5. §92.029-030; ALASKA STAT. §16.05.940
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=AK
Arizona Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: The Arizona administrative code states it is illegal to own non-domestic canines and felines, primates (except non-infant primates that are free from zoonotic disease), alligators, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and many more.
Persons possessing restricted wildlife must obtain a wildlife holding license to lawfully possess the animal.
The Department issues wildlife holding permits for (1) advancement of science, (2) fostering an animal unable to return to the wild, (3) wildlife previously possessed under a different special license, (4) promotion of public health or welfare, (5) providing education through an organization, (6) photography for a commercial purpose, or (6) wildlife management.
Requires the “owner” of the exotic animal to obtain a license or permit or to register the animal with state or local authorities to privately possess the animal (excludes states only requiring import permits)
Citation: ARIZ. COMP. ADMIN
R. & REGS. R12-4-405, R12-4-406; R12-4-407; R12-4-425; R12-4-426
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=AZ
Arkansas Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: If a person wishes to possess other animals not originally from the state and not being a large carnivore (such as a lion, tiger or bear), and up to 6 bobcats, coyotes, deer, gray foxes, red foxes, opossums, quail, rabbits, raccoons, and squirrels, then the person must show upon request verification that the animal was legally acquired in the previous state.
Citation: ARK. CODE ANN. §20-19-501-§20-19-511 & GFC 18.17
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=AR
California Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: The California Natural Resources Agency has banned most wild animals, including seals, bighorn sheep, and falcons, from being kept as pets in California, unless the animal was in possession before January 1992.
Wild animals include, but are not limited to the following orders: Primates; Marsupialia; Insectivora (shrews); Chiroptera (bats); Carnivora (non-domestic dog and cats); Proboscidea (elephants); Perissodactyla (zebras, horses, rhinos); Reptilia (crocodiles, cobras, coral snakes, pit vipers, snapping turtles, alligators); etc. Exceptions to this law include cattle, alpacas, llamas, and camels.
Citation: CAL. CODE REGS.
Tit. 14, §671 and §671.1
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=CA
Colorado Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: the Colorado Wildlife Act does not allow most exotic animals to be kept as pets unless it is for commercial purposes.
People may, however, own up to 6 live native reptiles, and unregulated wildlife.
Unregulated wildlife includes but is not limited to sugar gliders, wallabies, wallaroos, kangaroos, etc.
You can keep some native reptiles.
Citation: 2 COLO. CODE REGS. §406-8
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=CO
Connecticut Exotic Pet Laws
In Connecticut, there is a partial ban on private ownership of exotic animals.
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for persons to possess potentially dangerous animals.
Potentially dangerous animals include the Felidae family; the Canidae family; the Ursidae family; and Great apes (gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans).
Citation: CONN. GEN. STAT. §26-40a and §26-55
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=CT
Delaware Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: Delaware state law requires permits for most wild mammals and hybrids. Pets that do not require a permit include chinchillas, hedgehogs, ferrets, opossum, rabbits, sugar gliders, and more. Many lizards are allowed, including anoles, water dragons, basilisks, bearded dragons, chameleons, geckos, iguanas, and more.
It is illegal to possess, sell, or exhibit any poisonous snake not native to or generally found in Delaware.
Citation: DEL. CODE ANN tit. 3, §7201, §7202, and §7203
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=DE
Florida Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: According to the Florida Administrative Code, Class I animals are illegal to possess unless the animal was in possession prior to August 1, 1980.
Class I Wildlife includes, but is not limited to the following: chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, leopards, jaguars, tigers, lions, bears, elephants, crocodiles, etc.
Persons may possess Class II Wildlife if he or she obtains a permit from the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Class II Wildlife includes, but is not limited to the following: howler and guereza monkeys, macaques, cougars, bobcats, cheetahs, ocelots, servals, coyotes, wolves, hyenas, alligators, etc.
All other wildlife in personal possession not defined as Class I or II Wildlife must obtain a no-cost permit.
Besides, FL has promulgated regulations governing possession of Class II and III animals (caging requirements, etc.).
In 2010, Florida passed state regulations prohibiting importation, sale, use, and release of non-native species. The regulations include a ban on capturing, keeping, possessing, transporting, or exhibiting venomous reptiles or reptiles of concern (listed python species, Green Anaconda, Nile monitor, and other reptiles designated by the commission as a conditional or prohibited species.)
Persons who hold pre-July 1, 2010, permits for these species may legally possess the species for the remainder of the reptile’s life.
Traveling wildlife exhibitors who are licensed or registered under the United States Animal Welfare Act and licensed zoos are exempted.
Citation: FLA. ADMIN. CODE
ANN. r. §68A-6.002, §68A-6.0021, and §68A-6.0022. FL ST. §379.231-2 (nonnative animals.)
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=FL
Georgia Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: the Georgia Department of Natural Resources describes illegal animals as inherently dangerous animals. It is unlawful for persons to possess inherently dangerous animals as “pets.”
Inherently dangerous animals include, but are not limited to the following orders: Marsupialia (kangaroos); Primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, macaques); Carnivora (canines, felines); Proboscidae (elephants); Crocodylia (crocodiles, alligators, cobras, all poisonous rear-fanged species).
Only persons engaged in the wholesale or retail wild animal business or persons exhibiting wild animals to the public will be issued a license to possess inherently dangerous animals.
Citation: GA. CODE ANN. §27-5-4 and §27-5-5
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=GA
Hawaii Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: for the most part exotic animals are illegal in Hawaii for private use.
Exotic animals include, but are not limited to: Felidae family (lion, leopard, cheetah,); the Canidae family (wolf and coyote); and the Ursidae family (black bear, grizzly bear, and brown bear), etc.
Citation: HAW. ADMIN. RULES §4-71-5, §4-71-6, §4-71-6.1, and §4-71-6.5
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=HA
Idaho Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: The Idaho State Department of Agriculture forbids private possession of any “deleterious exotic animal” unless the owner receives a permit from the Idaho Department of Agriculture.
“Deleterious exotic animal” is defined as any live animal, or a hybrid thereof, that is not native to the state of Idaho and is determined by the Department to be dangerous to the environment, livestock, agriculture, or wildlife of the state.
This list includes big cats, all non-native canidae species, and all non-human primates.
Citation: IDAHO ADMIN CODE §02.04.27
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=ID
Illinois Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may harbor, care for, act as a custodian, or maintain in his possession any dangerous animal or primate except at a properly maintained zoological park, federally licensed exhibit, circus, scientific institution, research laboratory, veterinary hospital or animal refuge.
“Dangerous animal” means a lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, bear, hyena, wolf, coyote, or any poisonous life-threatening reptile.
There are no state requirements for a person possessing other exotic species not defined as “dangerous animals.”
Citation: ILL. REV STAT, ch. 720, para. 585/0.1, 585/1, 585/2, and 585/3
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=IL
Indiana Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: All persons who possess certain wild animals must obtain a permit for each animal they possess.
A wild animal possession permit is required for Class I, II and III animals,
Class, I animals are: eastern cottontail rabbit, gray squirrel, fox squirrel, southern flying squirrel
Class II animals are beaver, coyote, gray fox, red fox, mink, muskrat, opossum, raccoon, skunk, weasel)
Class III animals are wolves (purebred), bears, wild cats (excluding feral cats), gorillas, venomous reptiles, Burmese pythons, anacondas, and crocodilians (at least 5 feet long).
Citation: IND. CODE
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=IN
Iowa Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A person shall not own, possess, or breed a dangerous wild animal.
A dangerous wild animal is defined as any member of the following families, orders or species: Canidae (excluding a domestic dog), Hyaenidae, Felidae (excluding a domestic cat), Ursidae, Perissodactyla, Proboscidea, order primates, Crocodilia, and water monitors, crocodile monitors, beaded lizards, Gila monsters, designated species of venomous snakes, reticulated pythons, anacondas, and African rock pythons.
Citation: IOWA CODE ANN §717F.1-.13
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=IA
Kansas Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: Kansas state law does not allow dangerous regulated animals to be kept as pets.
Dangerous regulated animals include the following: lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, cheetah, mountain lion, hybrid of a large cat, bear, or venomous snake.
Persons who are licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture and hold an Animal Welfare Act license are exempt as well as zoos accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, a wildlife sanctuary, research facility, etc.
Citation: KAN. STAT. ANN §32-1301-32-1312
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=KS
Kentucky Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess inherently dangerous exotic animals.
Inherently dangerous exotic animals include, but are not limited to, tigers, lions, non-human primates, dangerous reptiles, bears, etc.
If you possessed an inherently dangerous exotic animal prior to July 2005 you may keep your animal, but can not possess any new animal or breed your current animals.
Citation: 301 KY. ADMIN. REGS. 2:082
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=KY
Louisiana Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess, purchase, or sell any black bear, grizzly bear, polar bear, red wolf, gray wolf, a wolf-dog hybrid, big cat or hybrid big cat, or non-human primates as a “pet.”
Individuals who possessed a nonhuman primate prior to the effective date of the regulation or a big cat (only one) prior to August 15, 2006, are grandfathered in as long as they obtain a permit.
No person may possess venomous or large constricting snakes (defined as more than 12 feet long) without first obtaining a permit.
Citation: LA. ADMIN. CODE tit. 76, §115; Part XV §101
For more info please check:http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=LA
Maine Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A person may possess a wild animal after obtaining a permit.
Citation: ME. REV. STAT.
ANN. tit. 12 § 7235-A
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=ME
Maryland Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess or breed the following species of animals as a “pet”: foxes, skunks, raccoons, all species of bears, alligators, crocodiles, all species of wild cats, wolves, nonhuman primates, various venomous reptiles, etc.
Persons possessing one of the listed animals prior to May 31, 2006, may continue to keep the animal as long as the person provides written notification to the local animal control authority on or before August 1, 2006, of said possession.
Citation: MD. CODE ANN., CRIMINAL LAW § 10-621
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MD
Massachusetts Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess as a “pet” a wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile, or amphibian unless the animal was owned prior to June 30, 1995.
A wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile, or amphibian is defined as any undomesticated animal that is not the product of hybridization with a domestic form and not otherwise contained in the exemption list.
Citation: MASS. REGS. CODE
tit. 321, §2.12 and §9.01; and MASS. GEN. LAWS
ANN. ch. 131, §23
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MA
Michigan Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess as a “pet” any member of the Felidae family (large cats), including their hybrids, any bear species, and any wolf-hybrid unless the animal was possessed prior to July 7, 2000.
A prior entry permit must be obtained from the director for all other wild animal or exotic animal species not listed above or regulated by the fish and wildlife service of the United States Department of Interior or the Department of Natural Resources of this state.
Prior to an exotic animal entering the state, the Department of Natural Resources may require the possessor to have the animal examined by an accredited veterinarian to determine the health status, proper housing, husbandry, and confinement standards are being met.
Citation: MICH. COMP. LAWS §287.731, MICH. COMP. LAWS §287.1001-1023, MICH. COMP. LAWS §287.1101-1123
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MI
Minnesota Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for a person to possess a regulated animal.
A regulated animal is defined as all members of the Felidae family (except domestic cats); all bears; and all non-human primates.
A person who possesses a regulated animal on the effective date of the law, January 1, 2005, has 90 days to register the animal with the local animal control authority.
Persons possessing a registered regulated animal may replace the regulated animal if he/she dies but may replace he/her only once.
Citation: MINN. STAT. 346.155
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MN
Mississippi Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for a person to import or possess any wild animal classified inherently dangerous by law or regulation unless that person holds a permit or is exempted from holding a permit.
Inherently dangerous animals include, but are not limited to the following animals: orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, macaques, mandrills, baboons, wolves, bears, hyenas, lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, elephants, etc.
However, there are no state requirements for private possession of small non-domesticated felines such as ocelots, servals, etc.
Citation: MISS. CODE ANN. §49-8-5 and §49-8-7
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MS
Missouri Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A person may not keep a lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, Canada lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, hyena, wolf, coyote, or any deadly dangerous, or poisonous reptile unless such person has registered the animal with the local law enforcement agency in the county in which the animal is kept.
Citation: MO. REV. STAT. §578.023; §578.600-624
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MO
Montana Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A person may not operate a wild animal menagerie without obtaining a permit.
A “wild animal menagerie” means any place where one or more bears or large cats, including cougars, lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, pumas, cheetahs, ocelots, and hybrids of those large cats are kept in captivity for use other than public exhibition.
All other exotic animals entering the state, such as reptiles, monkeys, etc., must be accompanied by a one-time entry permit and an official health certificate.
Citation: MONT. CODE ANN.
87-4-801, 87-4-803, and 87-4-804; MONT. ADMIN. R. §32.3.202
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=MT
Nebraska Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: according to Nebraska state law, it is unlawful for persons to possess any wolf, skunk, or any member of the Felidae (cats, except domesticated) and Ursidae (bear) families unless the animal was in possession before March 1, 1986.
However, there are no state requirements for non-human primates and reptiles.
Citation: NEB. REV. STAT. §37-477
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NE
Nevada Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: Nevada has some of the laxest wildlife laws.
Specific animals, outlined in NEV. ADMIN. CODE ch. 503, §110 are prohibited from private ownership except if the animal was in possession prior to February 28, 1994.
Examples of animals listed under §110 are the following: alligators, crocodiles, venomous snakes, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, etc.
However, other exotic animals may be possessed without a permit or license. Examples of these exotic animals are monkeys and other primates, marsupials, elephants, felines, wolves, etc.
Citation: NEV. ADMIN. CODE
ch. 503, §110; ch. 503, §140; ch. 504, §488
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NV
New Hampshire Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for persons to possess exotic animals, such as felines, bears, wolves, poisonous reptiles, and non-human primates, unless they are exhibitors.
However, certain non controlled animals may be privately kept within the state without a license. Non controlled animals include, but are not limited to sugar gliders, non-venomous reptiles, ferrets, etc.
Citation: N.H. REV. STATE ANN. §207:14 and N.H. CODE ADMIN. R Fis §802.01, §804.01, §804.02, §804.03, §804.04, §804.05, Table 800.02
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NH
New Jersey Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for persons to possess a potentially dangerous species as a “pet.”
Potentially dangerous species include the following orders: Primates; Carnivora (non domestic dogs and cats, bears); Saura (venomous Gila monsters); Serpentes (venomous coral snakes, cobras, vipers, pit vipers); Crocodilia (alligators, crocodiles, gavials); Psittaciformes (ring-necked and monk parakeets); and Rodentia (prairie dogs, ground squirrels). You can always check the New Jersey list of prohibited pets.
Zoos and other exhibitors may possess these animals upon showing that specific criteria have been met, such as extensive experience in handling and caring for the animal.
Citation: N.J. ADMIN. CODE tit. 7, §25-4.8 and §25-4.9
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NJ
New Mexico Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for a person to possess non-domesticated felines, primates, crocodiles, alligators, and wolves.
Citation: Policy Statement by the Department of Game & Fish.
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NM
New York Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: New York law states it is unlawful for a person to possess any wild animal.
A wild animal is defined as all members of the Felidae family (except domestic cats); all members of the canidae family (except domestic dogs); all bears; all non-human primates, venomous reptiles, and crocodiles.
A person who possesses a wild animal on the effective date of the law, January 1, 2005, has 60 days to obtain a permit for the animal with the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Citation: N.Y. ENVTL. CONSERV. §11-0103, §11-0303, §11-0511, §11-0512, §11-0516, §11-0103, and §11-0917; N.Y. AGRIC. & MKTS. §370.
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NY
North Carolina Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A county or city may by ordinance regulate, restrict, or prohibit the possession of dangerous animals.
Besides, an entry permit from the State Veterinarian is required before importing into the state a skunk, fox, raccoon, ringtail, bobcat, North and South American felines, coyote marten, and brushtail possum.
Citation: N.C. SESS. LAWS §153A-131 and §160A-187; N.C. ADMIN. CODE tit. 2, r. 52B.0212
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=NC
North Dakota Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: According to North Dakota law, Category 3, 4, or 5 of nontraditional livestock may be possessed in the state after obtaining an import permit; a nontraditional livestock license; a certificate from a veterinarian.
Category 4 is those species that are considered inherently dangerous, including bears, wolves, wolf hybrids, primates, all non-domesticated cats except Canadian lynx, and bobcat.
Citation: N.D. ADMIN. CODE §48-12-01-02 and §48-12-01-03
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=ND
Ohio Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: Ohio’s laws have changed since the Zanesville animal massacre in 2011. More than 50 wild animals were set loose from a preserve requiring authorities to euthanize lions, tigers, bears, and wolves roaming the streets. Since then, the Dangerous Wild Animal Act has made lions, tigers, bears, elephants, alligators, monkeys, and servals illegal to own, requiring a permit.
Persons in possession of dangerous wild animals prior to Oct. 1, 2013, must obtain a permit to keep the animal(s) after Jan. 1, 2014.
The definition of wild animal includes, but is not limited to: hyenas; gray wolves, excluding hybrids; lions; tigers; jaguars; leopards; cheetahs; cougars; bears; elephants; rhinoceroses; hippopotamuses; African wild dogs; Komodo dragons; alligators; crocodiles; caimans, excluding dwarf caimans; black-handed, white-bellied, brown-headed and black spider monkeys; common woolly monkeys; red, black and mantled howler monkeys.
Citation: O.H. REV. CODE §1533.71; and §935. O.H. ADMIN CODE 901:1-2 and 901:1-4.
For more info, you can check the article: Ohio Exotic Pet Law Changes – Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act available at https://www.thesprucepets.com/ohio-exotic-pet-law-changes-1239158
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=OH
Oklahoma Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess or raise wildlife for commercial purposes without having first obtained a permit.
Regardless of whether the possession is actually for “commercial purposes,” all persons owning these animals as “pets” must obtain this particular permit.
Citation: OKLA. STAT. Tit. 29, §4-107
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=OK
Oregon Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for a person to possess an exotic animal.
An exotic animal is defined as any wild cat, non-human primate, canine not indigenous to Oregon, bear (except black bear), and any alligator, crocodile, or caiman.
A person who possesses an exotic animal on the effective date of the law may continue to keep the animal and has 90 days to obtain a permit for the animal with the Department of Agriculture.
Citation: OR. REV. STAT. §609.305-§609.335
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=OR
Pennsylvania Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may keep exotic wildlife without first receiving a permit from the wildlife commission.
Exotic wildlife includes, but is not limited to all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves, and any crossbreed of these animals, which have similar characteristics in appearance or features.
Citation: 34 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. §2961 and §2963 58 Pa. Code §137.1.
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=PA
Rhode Island Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess, without first obtaining a permit from the department, animals of the following orders, families, and genera: Primates, Carnivores, Amphibia, Reptilia, Canidae, and Insecta.
All persons obtaining a permit must demonstrate they have both adequate facilities, and adequate knowledge of animal health and husbandry to ensure both public safety and health.
Citation: R.I. GEN. LAWS §4-18-3; 1994 R.I. PUB. LAWS 12 020 030
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=RI
South Carolina Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: according to South Carolina law, it is unlawful to possess wolves or coyotes within the State.
It is also unlawful to possess wildlife indigenous to the state without a permit. Specifically, one can not possess members of the Cervidae, Suidae, Tayassuidae (peccaries), Bovidae (bison, mountain goat, mountain sheep), nor can they possess coyotes, bears, turkeys, and furbearers.
However, no state laws are governing the possession of non-domesticated felines, primates, reptiles, amphibians, and other wildlife not listed above.
Citation: S.C. CODE REGS. §50-11-1765 and §50-16-20
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=SC
South Dakota Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A permit is required to possess any non-domestic mammal, or any hybrids thereof of the following orders: Carnivora (Felidae — non-domestic, Canidae — non-domestic, Ursidae — bears, Mustelidae, and Hyaenidae); Artiodactyla (hoofed animals); Perissodactyla (Tapiridae and Rhinocerotidae). No person may possess non-domestic pigs or raccoon dogs.
Besides, all animals (including those listed above and non-human primates and reptiles) must be examined by a veterinarian and be free of any contagious, infectious, epidemic, or communicable disease.
Citation: S.D. ADMIN. R. 12:68:18:03 and 12:68:18:03.01; and S.D. CODIFIED LAWS ANN. 40-14-2
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=SD
Tennessee Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for persons to possess Class I wildlife unless they were in possession of the animal(s) prior to June 25, 1991.
Class I wildlife includes the following orders: Primates (gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons, siamangs, mandrills, drills, baboons, Gelada baboons only); Carnivores (all wolves, all bears, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars); Proboscidia (all elephants); Perissodactyla (all rhinoceroses); Artiodactyla (all hippos and African buffalos); Crocodylia (crocodiles and alligators); Serpentes (all poisonous snakes); and Amphibians (all poisonous species).
However, the state does not regulate private possession of species not listed above, such as monkeys and small non-domesticated cats (ocelots, servals, etc.).
Citation: TENN. CODE ANN §70-4-401, §70-4-403, and §70-4-404
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=TN
Texas Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess a dangerous wild animal without first obtaining a license (certificate of registration).
Dangerous wild animals are defined as lions, tigers, ocelots, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, lynxes, servals, caracals, hyenas, bears, coyotes, jackals, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, or any hybrids of the animals listed.
However, there are no requirements for a person possessing all other animals not listed above, such as monkeys, wolves, etc.
Citation: TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 822.101-116; TEX. LOC. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 240.002(a) and § 240.0025
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=TX
Amphibian and Reptile FAQ available at https://tpwd.texas.gov/faq/huntwild/amphibian_reptile_stamp.phtml
Controlled Exotic Snake Permit (a.k.a. Nonindigenous Snake Permit) – Frequently Asked Questions https://tpwd.texas.gov/faq/business/permits/nonindigenous_snakes/index.phtml
Utah Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A person may not possess live zoological animals that are classified as prohibited.
Prohibited animals include, but are not limited to, the following families: Ursidae (bears), Canidae (all species), Felidae (all species except non-domesticated cats), Mustelidae (all species), Non-human primates, and certain species of reptiles, etc.
However, in rare circumstances, a person may possess these animals as a “pet” if the person obtains a certificate of registration from the Wildlife Board. Generally, exhibitors and educational and scientific facilities only obtain these registrations.
A certificate of registration is not required for non-controlled species which alligators and crocodiles fall under.
Citation: UTAH ADMIN. R. 657-3-17, R. 657-3-24, R. 657-3-25, and R. 657-3-27
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=UT
Vermont Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for persons to possess exotic animals, such as large felines, bears, wolves, poisonous reptiles, and non-human primates as “pets.”
Persons may possess exotic animals for exhibition and educational purposes if they obtain a permit.
Please note that the state statute says a person may not bring into the state or possess an exotic animal unless they obtain a permit. However, no personal possession permits for “pets” are issued to individuals.
Citation: VT. STAT. ANN. Tit. 10, §4709
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=VT
Virginia Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess nonnative exotic animals that are classed as predatory or undesirable as a “pet.”
Nonnative exotic animals include, but are not limited to: bears, wolves, coyotes, weasels, badgers, hyenas, all species of non-domesticated cats, alligators, and crocodiles.
Persons may possess these animals if they are a licensed exhibitor, i.e. commercial, educational, or scientific uses.
However, there are no state requirements for a person possessing non-human primates.
Citation: 4 VAC 15-30-10; 15-30-40
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=VA
Washington Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: No person may possess or breed a potentially dangerous animal after July 2007.
A potentially dangerous animal includes but not limited to large cats, wolves, bears, hyenas, non-human primates, elephants, alligators, crocodiles, water monitors, crocodile monitors; and various species of venomous snakes.
Citation: WASH. REV. CODE §16-30
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=WA
West Virginia Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: A person may not possess the most dangerous non-native wild animals.
Dangerous wild animals include gray wolves, big cats and hybrids, bears, elephants, rhinoceroses, many primates, and others.
Exotic animals owned prior to June 1, 2015, can be kept, as long as the owner obtains a permit.
Accredited exhibitors, nonprofits, animal control agencies, wildlife rehabilitators, veterinary clinics, sanctuaries, researchers, and educational institutions are exempt from these rules.
Citation: W. VA. CODE §19-34-1 to §19-34-9; W. VA. CODE R. §61-30-1
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=WV
Wisconsin Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: To import a wild animal into the state, a person must have an import permit and certificate of veterinary inspection.
A license is required to breed, sell, purchase, and possess certain native wild animal species, and any nonnative “harmful wild animals,” defined as cougars, members of the family Ursidae, wild swine, and feral swine.
Citation: WIS. STAT. ANN. 169.01, 169.04, 169.08, 169.10, 169.11; WIS. AADMIN. CODE ATCP 10.07, 10.84
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=WI
Wyoming Exotic Pet Laws
Summary of Law: It is unlawful for persons to possess big or trophy game animals.
Big game is defined as antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose, or mountain goat.
Trophy game is defined as black bear, grizzly bear, or mountain lion.
Citation: WYO. STAT. §23-1-101 and §23-1-103; WYO. REG. Chapter 10, §5
For more info please check: http://www.nraac.org/laws/entry.php?state=WY
– Animal Legal and Hist. Center
4. Is it legal to keep exotic reptiles as pets? Situation in Canada
Under provincial and federal law, it is illegal to keep a wild animal (both, animals found wild in Canada and those exotic in Canada but wild to other countries), as designated under the BC Wildlife Act, as a pet. Very rarely, the provincial government issues permit for the personal possession of wild animals.
Under provincial law, it is illegal to keep certain dangerous exotic animals like tigers, primates, or crocodiles as pets. However, what can’t be kept as a pet in Canada often changes from province to province.
Many cities also have exotic animal bylaws that make it illegal to keep some or all exotic pets.
Alberta Exotic Pet Laws
Alberta toughened its stance on exotic animals in 2000. It is illegal to own any exotic animals without a permit.
No specific species are banned by legislation.
British Columbia Exotic Pet Laws
B.C. has some of the most restrictive legislation and regulations in the country on the private keeping of exotic animals. Those that pose the most risk to public health and safety have been designated as Controlled Alien Species under provincial legislation after high-profile human injuries and death.
The B.C. Wildlife Act’s Controlled Alien Species (CAS) Regulation controls the possession, breeding, shipping, and releasing of certain exotic animals (wild animals not native to B.C.). As the provincial government has the responsibility of ensuring public safety, the exotic animals listed in the regulation reflect only those who pose a serious risk to human health or safety.
Those exotic animals on the CAS list living in B.C. before 2009 may have been allowed to stay in the province under specific permit conditions, but no new animals could be imported or bred after the new law was enacted. Accredited zoos, research institutions, film companies, and rescue centers must be permitted to keep any CAS species.
Manitoba Exotic Pet Laws
The legislation for exotic animals in Manitoba is fragmented and to get a full picture of what is allowed and what is not you have to examine the regulations in several departments.
New Brunswick Exotic Pet Laws
Exotic pets require a permit to import and possess, however, there is a list of 43 species that are exempt from this.
In 2013, a pet python in New Brunswick killed two young boys. Although there was a major awareness campaign to emphasize the care of exotic pets, no existing laws were changed.
Newfoundland and Labrador Exotic Pet Laws
Newfoundland and Labrador also have an extensive list of animals that can be brought in without a permit.
The law states that any other animals require a permit and native animals are not allowed as pets.
Northwest Territories Exotic Pet Laws
No specific species are banned by legislation.
To import wildlife a person would need a registered certificate of health of the animal from a licensed veterinarian and then the approval of a permit is subject to the approval of the Deputy Minister.
Nova Scotia Exotic Pet Laws
Nova Scotia is one of the rare provinces with a comprehensive list of exotic animals that are prohibited and those that are allowed. Those lists can be found here.
The law states that any animal species not found on this list requires the application of a permit.
Nunavut Exotic Pet Laws
Nunavut has laws concerning the regulation of native wildlife but not real regulations that apply to other exotic species.
Ontario Exotic Pet Laws
Ontario law has regulations in place to outlaw the keeping of many local animals such as raccoons, wild turkeys, and squirrels, however, there are no specific laws that outlaw the ownership of a tiger or giraffe.
Prince Edward Island Exotic Pet Laws
Prince Edward Island has extensive information on which animals can and can’t be kept.
The laws also state that an owner is responsible for the recapture of their pet should it escape.
Quebec Exotic Pet Laws
Quebec has specific laws that relate to keeping an animal as a pet without a permit. The extensive detail on this can be found here.
Saskatchewan Exotic Pet Laws
Saskatchewan has two classifications for exotic pets, ones that need a permit, and ones that don’t. The specifications for this can be found here.
While no exotic species are specifically banned, anecdotal stories suggest that permits for animals that require them are not often approved.
Yukon Exotic Pet Laws
The current Wildlife Act in Yukon states that it has regulations on all animals “not indigenous to the Yukon and that in its natural habitat is usually found wild in nature.”
If one wishes to own an exotic animal, that person must register with the city with a host of specific information before it can be considered.
For information on traveling with/importing your reptile or amphibian to Canada please check here: https://www.inspection.gc.ca/animal-health/terrestrial-animals/imports/import-policies/live-animals/pet-imports/travelling-with-frogs-reptiles-or-turtles/eng/1326658752555/1326658911065
5. Is it legal to keep exotic reptiles as pets? The situation in the UK
In the UK there are currently some legal restrictions on keeping certain species in private households.
All of the native species of amphibians and reptiles receive some degree of protection through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). There have been two alterations to the Schedules to this Act which have increased the level of protection since it was originally passed (these occurred in 1988 and 1991).
There are three different levels of protection afforded to amphibians and reptiles through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; this results from different parts of Section 9 of the Act applying to the different species (as specified in Schedule 5).
Existing laws are based primarily on public safety or conservation reasons, not welfare grounds. However, there is the Animal Welfare Act under which owners must meet their exotic animal’s needs. Also, cruelty and ill-treatment of animals are prohibited.
Interesting fact: Unbelievably as it might sound, in the United Kingdom in the 1950s and 60s, the department store Harrods had an ‘exotic animals’ department where everyday citizens could buy alligators, elephants, ostriches and lions for pets.
Licenses in the UK:
An Article 10 Certificate is required from Defra to deal with CITES-listed species-endangered species (buying, selling, or displaying to paying customers).
To keep a wild animal in captivity, a UK resident may need a license (https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/wildlife/captivity/licences).
Licenses mostly relate to conservation rather than animal welfare and many are linked to further legislation or international conventions.
These DWA licenses may sometimes be issued retrospectively by councils, for example, enabling reptile collectors to obtain venomous snakes before they become licensed. This is possible because, under the Dangerous Wild Animals (DWA) Act, it’s perfectly legal to sell venomous snakes to people who don’t have a license to keep them: the legal onus is, instead, on the purchaser to have obtained a DWA license from their local authority (source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/03/200319194135.htm).
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Natural Resources Wales administer most licenses in England and Wales. If you’re unsure whether you need a license, it’s best to ask them.
Other regulations in the UK
- Imports: Peter Kettlewel, President of the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), points out that there aren’t any legal controls when venomous snakes are purchased in EU countries and brought into the UK either (source: https://www.rspca.org.uk/adviceandwelfare/pets/other).-
- ◦ Public display: under the Zoo Licensing Act of 1981, if you display any wild animal (‘not normally domesticated in Great Britain’) to the public for seven or more days in twelve months, you must apply for a license from your local authority. For an explanation of ‘not normally domesticated‘, see Annex A of Defra’s Guide to the Zoo Licensing Act.
- Scientific research is controlled by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and this prevents activities such as toe-clipping unless licensed by the Home Office.
- Sales of products made from marine turtles are restricted by the EC Regulation no. 3626/82 which implements the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) in the European Union.
6. Is it legal to keep exotic reptiles as pets? The situation in Continental Europe
The EU’s regulation on wildlife trade (Council Regulation [EC] No. 338/97) essentially implements the protection of species native to the EU (there is the European Wildlife Trade Regulations (EWTR), a European convention related to endangered species) or listed by CITES. All other species can be freely traded within the EU —whether they are threatened or strictly protected in their native range.
Historically, most Member States have introduced negative lists to manage the entry and presence of exotic species on their territories. Such lists exhaustively number the types of animals that cannot be kept as pets.
However, three EU Member States, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, have formally introduced positive lists. A Positive List is a list of animal species that are suitable and allowed to be kept as pets. Animals not on that list are automatically not allowed to be kept, or only allowed under very specific conditions or using an exemption.
7. Is it legal to keep exotic reptiles as pets? Situation in Australia
Being one of the 17 mega-diversity countries, Australia is known for its herpetological diversity, with at least 917 recognized reptile species and approximately 93% endemism (Mittermeier and Mittermeier, 2004; Chapman, 2009).
In Australia, the trade and keeping of reptiles is regulated on a state-by-state basis, and the laws are subject to change.
In most instances, licenses must be applied for before a reptile is obtained, and records must be kept, with annual returns required.
All reptiles must be acquired from a legitimate source, and there are constraints as to which species can be kept, and in what circumstances.
Therefore, the very first thing to do when considering acquiring a reptile is to familiarise yourself with the legal requirements within your state or territory.
The following prompts lead to the relevant wildlife agencies for each state and territory: NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, ACT, WA, NT, TAS.
The export of wildlife is strictly regulated under the nation’s key environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, which was enacted in July 2000.
Commercial export of native animals may only be permitted for dead specimens from approved sources. No export of live reptiles is permitted.
Code of Practice, Department of Environment and Science, Wildlife management,
Captive reptile and amphibian husbandry, available at https://environment.des.qld.gov.au/?a=90614
Australian Herpetological Society
Hawkesbury Herpetological Society
The keeping and trading of exotic pets is currently under debate and the governments of several countries are increasingly exploring the regulation, or even the banning, of exotic pet keeping.
Major concerns are issues of public health and safety, animal welfare, protectionism of endangered species, and ecosystem preservation.
Keeping a companion animal should ideally enhance –and certainly not jeopardize -its welfare (Schuppli and Fraser 2000). Welfare should be considered in terms of the “five freedoms” (Farm Animal Welfare Council 1979): 1) freedom from hunger and thirst, 2) freedom from discomfort 3) freedom from pain, injury or disease 4) freedom to express normal behavior and 5) freedom from fear and distress.
These freedoms can be assured if conditions for optimal nutrition, environment, health, and behavior are provided to assure optimal physical and mental state (Mellor and Stafford 2001); principles that can be widely applied to any animal under human care.
However, the physical, mental, and behavioral demands of amphibians and reptiles usually do not depend on interactions with the owner, but are met by providing an optimal environment, nutrition and, if relevant, compatible cage mates.
We encourage the responsible and sustainable keeping of reptile and amphibian pets by private persons.