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Snake Laws


Keeping venomous snakes is regulated for 3 key reasons, but as with most laws the main reason is safety and general public health.

Ecosystem preservation is also a concern that laws regulating the tenure and ownership of venomous snakes normally takes into consideration, since when these snakes are released in the wild, they are normally detrimental for other species and have the potential to dramatically altered the ecosystem balance.

Venomous snakes as with any other pets can escape, posing a major risk to third parties. Therefore, there is the matter of liability. If you own or are planning to acquire a venomous snake, chances are your state law will require you to keep a stock of anti-venom.

Also, keeping a liability insurance is a must: if you cannot afford the insurance, you should not keep venomous snakes.

If you are bitten by one, your health insurance should cover the treatment. But you should check your coverage before an incident so you can buy extra coverage, including coverage for other victims who may or may not sue you. Make sure that coverage includes medical, damages(restitution for both physical and emotional damages), and any additional court costs.

Last but not least, some venomous snakes species may fall under the category of “endangered species” and thus, have special legal protection for this reason. 

Quick Reference Section

1. Is it legal to keep venomous snakes as pets? The situation in the US.

Federal Law:

As a general rule, non-venomous snakes can be kept without permission in the US.

With venomous snakes things are different.

Therefore, before buying  any venomous snake, you should check what your state,  municipal and county laws are.

In some States it is legal to keep venomous snakes as pets (even wild caught) with a permit. In other states, it is entirely illegal to own them. 

The Lacey Act is a law that makes it illegal to import or export certain animals if they were not caught according to federal, state or foreign law.

At the same time, if you acquire venomous snakes that “you know, or reasonably should have known, were taken, possessed, transported or sold in violation of state law,” you are in violation of the Lacey Act.

Violation of the Lacey Act means you may be charged with civil or criminal sanctions, even if you didn’t know you were breaking the law at the time.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects native species by preventing anybody in any state from harassing, killing or taking them from the wild. 

The list includes some venomous snakes. Several species are also under review, meaning that they may be added shortly.

Check to see which snakes are protected in your area.

2. State Laws regarding the catching, tenure, breeding and/or trade of venomous snakes:


Under ALA. ADMIN CODE r. 220-2-.26, it is unlawful to possess any non-indigenous venomous reptile without a permit.

For more info please check:


Summary of Law

According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, a permit is required to possess an exotic venomous snake.

As a general rule, 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.

Citation: ALASKA ADMIN. CODE tit. 5. §92.029-030; ALASKA STAT. §16.05.940

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Summary of Law

The Arizona administrative code states it is illegal to own poisonous snakes without a permit.

R. & REGS. R12-4-405, R12-4-406; R12-4-407; R12-4-425; R12-4-426

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No permit is required to own native or exotic venomous snakes in Arkansas.

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Summary of Law

The California Natural Resources Agency has banned most wild animals,  unless the animal was in possession before January 1992. 

Wild animals include venomous species such as coral snakes.

Citation: CAL. CODE REGS.
Tit. 14, §671 and §671.1

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Summary of Law

The Colorado Wildlife Act does not allow most exotic animals to be kept as pets unless it is for commercial purposes.

Noncommercial possession or the possession of a live venomous snake as a pet is prohibited.

Live venomous snakes may only be possessed pursuant to a Commercial Wildlife Park License issued by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The possession of live venomous snakes (native or nonnative) in Colorado is an activity regulated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

In addition, a person must first obtain authorization from both Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado State Veterinarian Office before importing or otherwise arranging for delivery of any venomous snake into Colorado.

Prior to the issuance of a Commercial Wildlife Park License, a license applicant must: clearly establish the commercial purpose behind the proposed possession, and construct a facility sufficient enough to ensure containment of the snakes.

All facilities will be inspected for compliance with all applicable facility requirements prior to issuance of the Commercial Wildlife Park License.

Once a Commercial Wildlife Park License is issued, a licensee(person holding the license) must ensure continued compliance with all inspections, including the facility, acquisition, production, placement of all venomous snakes, and record keeping and reporting requirements.

Licensees are required to renew their Commercial Wildlife Park License on an annual basis.

Any escape of a venomous snake from a licensed facility must be reported to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the local law enforcement agency within 24 hours of discovery.

Regulations regarding the possession of venomous snakes pursuant to a Commercial Wildlife Park License can be found in Chapter 11 (“Wildlife Parks and Unregulated Wildlife”) of Colorado Parks and Wildlife Regulations, 2 CCR 406-8.

Interested persons should also contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Colorado Department of Agriculture and their local jurisdiction (city or county) for additional requirements that may apply to their proposed possession of venomous snakes.

Citation: 2 COLO. CODE REGS. §406-8, Chapter 11 (Wildlife Parks and Unregulated Wildlife).

For more info please check: or  contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife Special Licensing at (303) 291-7143.


Summary of Law

In Connecticut,  it is unlawful for persons to possess potentially dangerous animals. However, venomous snakes are not listed under the law’s definition of ‘dangerous animal.’ You can apply for a permit to keep one, although it will most likely be denied.

Citation: CONN. GEN. STAT. §26-40a and §26-55

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Summary of Law:

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

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Summary of Law

In Florida, it is legal to own a venomous snake provided that you have a permit.

To get a permit, owners need 1000 hours+ experience with venomous reptiles, and must also provide two reference letters from existing license holders.

In Florida, there are just 6 native venomous snakes: the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the timber rattlesnake, the dusky pygmy rattlesnake, the coral snake, the cottonmouth, and the copperhead (which can be confused for the northern water snake). The eastern diamondback rattler has the most lethal bite.

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.)

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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 cobras and 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

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Summary of Law:

For the most part exotic animals are illegal in Hawaii for private use.

The purpose of this law is to protect Hawaii’s ecology—there are no native amphibians or snakes in Hawaii, and if any were introduced, they could easily kill many unique native species. Even parasites from exotic pets could cause untold damage

Citation: HAW. ADMIN. RULES §4-71-5, §4-71-6, §4-71-6.1, and §4-71-6.5

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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. Again, here, ecology is a major concern.

Citation: IDAHO ADMIN CODE §02.04.27

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Summary of Law

No person may harbor, care for, act as a custodian, or maintain in his possession any dangerous animal except at a properly maintained zoological park, federally licensed exhibit, circus, scientific institution, research laboratory, veterinary hospital or animal refuge.

“Dangerous animal” includes any poisonous life-threatening reptile.

68/10-5. Venomous reptile defined:

Venomous reptiles include, but are not limited to, any medically significant venomous species of the families or genera of the Order Squamata:

  • Helodermatidae, such as gila monsters and beaded lizards
  • Elapidae, such as cobras and coral snakes
  • Hydrophiidae, such as sea snakes
  • Viperidae and Crotalinae, such as vipers and pit vipers
  • Atractaspididae, such as burrowing asps
  • Colubridae in the following genera that shall be determined by administrative rule:
    • West Indian racers (Alsophis)
    • Boigas and mangrove snakes (Boiga)
    • Road guarders (Conophis)
    • Boomslangs (Dispholidus)
    • False water cobras (Hydrodynastes)
    • Varied or hooded keelbacks (Macropisthodon)
    • Montpellier snakes (Malpolon)
    • Kukri snakes (Oligodon)
    • Collared snakes (Phalotris)
    • Palm snakes or green racers (Philodryas)
    • Sand snakes or racers (Psammophis)
    • Keelbacks (Rhabdophis)
    • Beaked snakes (Rhamphiophis)
    • Twig snakes (Thelotornis)
    • Black tree snakes (Thrasops)
    • Pampas snakes (Tomodon)
    • Wagler’s snakes (Waglerophis)
    • False fer-de-lances (Xenodon)
    • specimens or eggs of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis)
    • any other species added through legislative process designated.

Credits: P.A. 98-752, § 10-5, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.

68/10-15. Venomous reptile permit requirements

Herptile Special Use permits may be issued to residents using approved venomous reptile species only for bona fide educational programs, following an inspection and approval of the proposed facilities.

A minimum of 6 documented programs shall be required of each permittee per calendar year. Unless addressed or exempted by administrative rule, annual permit renewal must be accompanied by a non-refundable fee as set by the Department by administrative rule and documented proof of educational programs completed on the recipient’s letterhead.

Prospective permittees must have 250 documented hours of experience with venomous reptiles. The Department or the Department of Agriculture reserves the right to inspect permittees and facilities during reasonable hours.

Additions to permits must be approved prior to acquisition of additional venomous reptiles, and any changes shall be reported to the Department in writing no later than the first business day after that change occurred.

Credits: P.A. 98-752, § 10-15, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.

68/10-20. Approved venomous reptiles

Permittees may keep legally obtained venomous reptile specimens native to the United States, except the following species from the southern portions of their range (Oklahoma, southern Arkansas, Louisiana, and also southeastern South Carolina south through eastern Georgia to northern Florida), known as “Type A” and containing canebrake toxin.

  • Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus adamanteus)
  • Western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox)
  • Mojave rattlesnakes (Crotalus scutulatus)
  • Southern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus helleri)
  • Eastern and Texas coral snakes (Micrurus fulvius)
  • Sonoran coral snakes (Micruroides euryxanthus)
  • timber/canebrake rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus)

Except for Boomslangs (Dispholidus), twig snakes (Thelotornis), keelbacks (Rhabdophis), Lichtenstein’s green racer (Philodryas olfersii), and brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), medically significant snakes in the family Colubridae defined in Section 10-5 of this Article may be possessed with a permit.

Credits: P.A. 98-752, § 10-20, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.

68/10-25. Maintenance of venomous reptiles

Permittees shall keep approved venomous reptiles in strong escape-proof enclosures that at a minimum are:

  • impact resistant
  • locked at all times
  • prominently labeled with the permittee’s full name, address, telephone number, list of cage contents by scientific and common names, and a sign labeled “venomous”.
  • The signage shall also include the type and location of antivenom and contact information of the person or organization possessing the antivenom.

Credits: P.A. 98-752, § 10-25, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.

Citation: ILL. REV STAT, ch. 720, para. 585/0.1, 585/1, 585/2, 585/3, and 510 ILCS 68/1-1 to 510 ILCS 68/110–5

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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 III animas includes venomous reptiles, Burmese pythons, anacondas, and crocodilians (at least 5 feet long).

Citation: IND. CODE ANN. §14-22-26-1-§14-22-26-6.

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Summary of Law

A person shall not own, possess, or breed a dangerous wild animal or cause or allow a dangerous wild animal owned by a person or in the person’s possession to breed.

Further, a person shall not transport a dangerous wild animal into this state. There is a grandfather provision that allows a person who owns or possesses a dangerous wild animal on July 1, 2007 to continue to own or possess the dangerous wild animal subject the provisions of the laws.

A person owning or possessing a dangerous wild animal who violates the law is subject to a civil penalty of not less than two hundred dollars and not more than two thousand dollars for each dangerous wild animal involved in the violation.

A dangerous wild animal includes designated species of venomous snakes, reticulated pythons, anacondas, and African rock pythons.

Citation: IOWA CODE ANN §717F.1-.13

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Summary of Law:

Kansas state law does not allow dangerous regulated animals to be kept as pets.

Dangerous regulated animals include 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

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Summary of Law

No person may possess inherently dangerous exotic animals.

Inherently dangerous exotic animals include, dangerous reptiles such as venomous snakes.

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

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Summary of Law

No person may possess venomous or large constricting snakes without first obtaining a permit.

The importation or private possession of constrictor snakes in excess of eight feet long, including but not limited to the following species:

  • Apodora papuana (Papuan python)
  • Liasis olivacea, (Olive python)
  • Morelia spilota (Carpet or Diamond python)
  • Morelia kinghorni (Scrub python)
  • Morelia amethystine (Amethystine python)
  • Python natalensis (Southern African python)
  • Python sebae (African Rock python)
  • Python molurus (Indian or Burmese python)
  • Python reticulatus (Reticulate python)
  • any species of the genus Boa (Boa constrictors)
  • and any species of the genus Eunectes (Anacondas),

No matter how these species were, will only be permitted if you have a permit issued by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

There is an exception for animals kept by animal sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife research centers, scientific organizations, and medical research facilities as defined in the Animal Welfare Act as found in the United States Code Title 7, Chapter 54, 2132(e).

The importation or private possession of venomous snakes, including any species under current taxonomic standing recognized belonging to the following Families:

  • Viperidae (Pitvipers and Vipers)
  • Elapidae (Cobras and Mambas)
  • Hydrophiidae (Sea Snakes)
  • Atractaspididae (Mole Vipers)
  • as well as the genera Dispholidus, Thelotornis
  • and Rhabdophis of the Family Colubridae

can be permitted by obtaining a permit from the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

There is also an exception for animals kept by animal sanctuaries, zoos, aquariums, wildlife research centers, scientific organizations, and medical research facilities as defined in the Animal Welfare Act as found in the United States Code Title 7, Chapter 54, 2132(e).

The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission is authorized to adopt rules and regulations for the harvest, possession, sale, handling, housing, or importation for species of constrictors and poisonous snakes.

Violation of the provisions of this Section or rules adopted pursuant thereto shall constitute a class three violation as provided for in R.S. 56:33.


Citation: LA. ADMIN. CODE tit. 76, §115; Part XV §101, 2014 Louisiana Laws, mRevised Statutes, TITLE 56 – Wildlife and Fisheries, RS 56:632.5.1 – Constrictors and poisonous snakes

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Summary of Law

A person may possess a wild animal after obtaining a permit.

Citation: ME. REV. STAT.
ANN. tit. 12 § 7235-A

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Summary of Law

No person may possess or breed venomous reptiles.

Persons possessing venomous reptiles 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

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Summary of Law

No person may possess as a “pet” a wild reptile unless the animal was owned prior to June 30, 1995.

A wild reptile  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.

From the above it can be understood that if the reptile is not “wild”, it can be kept.

Citation: MASS. REGS. CODE
tit. 321, §2.12 and §9.01; and MASS. GEN. LAWS
ANN. ch. 131, §23

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Summary of Law

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

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Summary of Law: MINN. STAT. 346.155 lists various animals considered to be ‘regulated animals,’ which includes big cats, bears, and primates. Since snakes are not listed, you can legally keep venomous snakes, provided that you have a permit to do so.

Citation: MINN. STAT. 346.155

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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. While snakes are not on the list of inherently dangerous animals, lawmakers are trying to add them to it.

Citation: MISS. CODE ANN. §49-8-5 and §49-8-7

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Missouri, has 46 species and subspecies of snakes, but just 5 species are venomous. The others are harmless although many may bite in self-defense.

Summary of Law

A person may not keep a  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

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Summary of Law

All exotic animals entering the state, such as reptiles, 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

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Summary of Law

There are no state requirements for  reptiles.

Under NEB. REV. STAT. §37-477—the law specifying which animals require a permit—no mention is made of reptiles, venomous or otherwise. You can, therefore, legally keep a venomous snake without a permit.

Citation: NEB. REV. STAT. §37-477

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Summary of Law

Nevada has some of the laxest wildlife laws. However, venomous snakes 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. 

Citation: NEV. ADMIN. CODE
ch. 503, §110; ch. 503, §140; ch. 504, §488

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New Hampshire

Summary of Law

It is unlawful for persons to possess  poisonous reptiles, unless they are exhibitors.

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

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New Jersey

Summary of Law

It is unlawful for persons to possess a potentially dangerous species as a “pet.”  Potentially dangerous species include venomous coral snakes, cobras, vipers, and pit vipers).

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.

Besides that, it is illegal to kill, harm, harass, handle or collect ANY of New Jersey’s snakes (and their parts) under the NJ Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation.

Northern Copperheads are venomous snakes native to New Jersey. The NJ Div. of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) is dedicated to the protection and survival of NJ’s native snakes because they are an important part of  the State natural environment.

There is the Venomous Snake Response Team, that is a team of volunteers trained volunteers to remove copperheads (and rattlesnakes) from private property upon request.

Citation: N.J. ADMIN. CODE tit. 7, §25-4.8 and §25-4.9

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New Mexico

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.

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New York

Summary of Law

New York law states it is unlawful for a person to possess any wild animal.

Both venomous reptiles and crocodiles fall under the definition of “wild animal” under New York State law.

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.

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North Carolina

Summary of Law

A county or city may by ordinance regulate, restrict, or prohibit the possession of dangerous animals.

Under North Carolina G.S. 14-417 it is unlawful to house any venomous reptile in an enclosure that isn’t sturdy and secure. The enclosure has to be permanent, and have an operable lock. It must be ‘designed to be’ both escape proof and bite proof.

Citation: N.C. SESS. LAWS §153A-131 and §160A-187; N.C. ADMIN. CODE tit. 2, r. 52B.0212,  North Carolina G.S. 14-417.

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North Dakota

Summary of Law

Under N.D. ADMIN. CODE §48.1-09, venomous snakes are considered non-traditional livestock, category 3. As such, you do need a permit to keep one.

Citation: N.D. ADMIN. CODE §48-12-01-02,  §48.1-09, and  §48-12-01-03

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Summary of Law:

Under the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act, it’s unlawful to keep certain venomous snakes without a permit. It’s also necessary to keep antivenom for the snake or snakes in question on hand.

These snakes are defined in the Ohio Revised Code 935.01 as elapids, vipers, boomslangs, twig snakes, asps and many non-venomous constrictor snakes.

For more info, you can check the article: Ohio Exotic Pet Law Changes – Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act  available at

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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

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Summary of Law

According to the Oregon Department of Wildlife, venomous snakes in Oregon are listed as prohibited species. This includes rattlesnakes, copperheads and cottonmouths, cobras, brown tree snakes, puff adders and several other vipers.

These animals may not be imported, exported, traded or owned and there is no permit available except for zoos and research facilities.

As a general rule, 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

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Summary of Law: To legally own a venomous snake in Pennsylvania, you’ll need a license.

These licenses (Venomous Snake Permits) can be obtained for the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and should be sought before you acquire the snake. The snake would then have to be legally collected from the wild during the open season.

In general, 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.

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Rhode Island

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

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South Carolina

Summary of Law:

No state laws are governing the possession of  reptiles. The law in South Carolina with regards to owning or selling venomous snakes is unclear.

While it is illegal to own an exotic animal without first obtaining a license, and while venomous snakes are included under that definition, this law seems very vaguely enforced.

South Carolina is one of the few places in the country where you can find venomous snakes for sale at reptile shows.

Citation: S.C. CODE REGS. §50-11-1765 and §50-16-20

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South Dakota

Summary of Law

You need a permit to catch and keep rattlesnakes in South Dakota. Permits can be obtained from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

All animals including 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

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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 Serpentes (all poisonous snakes) and Amphibians (all poisonous species).

Provided so, also a license is required. To get a license, you need prove that you’re a suitable owner. That involves proving that you have a strong enough enclosure, one which has a lock so that they can’t get out, and that you know how to handle them.

Citation: TENN. CODE ANN §70-4-401, §70-4-403, and §70-4-404

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Summary of Law

No person may possess a dangerous wild animal without first obtaining a license (certificate of registration).

Citation: TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 822.101-116; TEX. LOC. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 240.002(a) and § 240.0025

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Amphibian and Reptile FAQ available at

Controlled Exotic Snake Permit (a.k.a. Nonindigenous Snake Permit) – Frequently Asked Questions


Summary of Law

A person may not possess live zoological animals that are classified as prohibited.

Prohibited animals include certain species of reptiles.

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 are the only to obtain these registrations.

Citation: UTAH ADMIN. R. 657-3-17, R. 657-3-24, R. 657-3-25, and R. 657-3-27

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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

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Summary of Law

With reference to native snakes, it is illegal to kill a snake in Virginia unless it poses a threat to you or livestock. Illegally killing a snake is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.

In what has to do with non-native species, no person may possess non-native exotic animals that are classed as predatory or undesirable as a “pet.”

Persons may possess these animals if they are a licensed exhibitor, i.e. commercial, educational, or scientific uses. 

Citation: 4 VAC 15-30-10; 15-30-40

For more info please check:

Learn more:

“A Guide to the Snakes and Lizards of Virginia” from the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is available at

The Virginia Herpetological Society’s online section on snakes:


Summary of Law

No person may possess or breed a potentially dangerous animal after July 2007. 

A potentially dangerous animal includes  various species of venomous snakes.

The copperhead is one of about 20 snakes native to Washington, D.C., and is the only venomous species in the area. The other venomous snake found closest to the timber rattlesnake, which is found in Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia.

Citation: WASH. REV. CODE §16-30

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West Virginia

Summary of Law

Of the 20 species of snakes found in West Virginia only two are venomous, the Northern Copperhead and Timber Rattlesnake. Rattlesnakes can be kept in West Virginia, with no permit required for keeping them.

However, the legal limit on the number of rattlesnakes you’re allowed to keep is just one. A West Virginia man faced charges in 2018 for keeping 17 rattlesnakes, far more than the legal limit.

A person may not possess the most dangerous non-native wild animals.  Non-native 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

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Summary of Law

In Wisconsin, no permit is required for the keeping of venomous snakes. However, you should check with municipal law to see if they are banned where you live. Janesville, for example, restricts ownership of both venomous and constricting snakes.

As a general rule, to import a wild animal into the state, a person must have an import permit and certificate of veterinary inspection. Eventually, this may include snakes.

Citation: WIS. STAT. ANN. 169.01, 169.04, 169.08, 169.10, 169.11; WIS. AADMIN. CODE ATCP 10.07, 10.84

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Summary of Law

Wyoming Statutes Title 23. Game and Fish § 23-1-101 defines any wild animal not native to Wyoming as exotic.

Exotic animals are not prohibited under § 23-1-103., meaning that you don’t need a permit to own exotic snakes. As always, check with local laws before purchasing or catching a venomous snake.

Citation: WYO. STAT. §23-1-101 and §23-1-103; WYO. REG. Chapter 10, §5

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Related Links
Animal Legal and Hist. Center

Summing up:

Legal SituationStates
All Snakes
Strictly IllegalCalifornia, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, WyomingVenomous Snakes IllegalArizona, Delaware, Illinois, Florida, New HampshireVenomous Snakes Legal With PermitIndiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, UtahNon-Venomous Snakes Legal With PermitAlaska, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, UtahNon-Venomous Snakes Legal Without PermitArkansas, Colorado, Illinois, New HampshireNo Regulations Or RestrictionsAlabama, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, WisconsinCounties Or Municipalities DecideNorth Carolina

3. Is it legal to keep venomous snakes 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.  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 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

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.


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 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

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

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

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 has laws concerning the regulation of native wildlife but not real regulations that apply to other exotic species.


The keeping of exotic animals is regulated at the municipal level: it’s the city or town that decides what’s legal or illegal to keep. Some municipalities have passed by-laws that prohibit the keeping of all snakes; most, however, have a list of exotic animals you can’t keep.

For example, Toronto bylaws prohibit owning any venomous snake and any snake that can grow to more than three metres in length.

For more information please check:

Interesting facts:

There are 17 species of snakes in Ontario but the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake is the only venomous snake native to the province

Once common throughout southern and central Ontario, this threatened species is now found on the eastern side of Georgian Bay, the Bruce Peninsula, and in small pockets near Windsor and Wainfleet, Ont. in the Niagara area.

The Massasauga Rattlesnake was listed as threatened when the Endangered Species Act took effect in 2008. On June 27, 2014, the population was split into two, with the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence population listed as threatened, and the Carolinian population listed as endangered.

Prince Edward Island

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 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 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.


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:

4. Is it legal to keep venomous snakes as pets? The situation in the UK

There is, for instance, only one native venomous species in the United Kingdom, and no snake at all in Ireland (thanks to St Patrick!).

All of the native species of 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 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).

In what has to do with not-native (exotic species)  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.

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 (

Licenses mostly relate to conservation rather than animal welfare and many are linked to further legislation or international conventions.

According to a recent article published by the by British Medical Journal available at,  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:

In fact, pet shops are currently excluded from the requirements of the DWA Act and are therefore able to keep dangerous species without a DWA licence

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 Kettlewell, 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:

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.

5. Is it legal to keep venomous snakes as pets? The situation in Continental Europe

There aren’t that many venomous species in Europe and they are far from being the most dangerous in the world. Many of them belong to the large and varied Colubrid group, and are either non-venomous or only slightly venomous and by no means a danger to humans.

The only truly venomous snakes in Europe therefore all belong to the Viper family and, unlike their American counterparts, are all true vipers – as opposed to pit vipers.

In what has to do with non-native (exotic) species, historically, most Member States have introduced negative lists to manage their entry and presence in 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.

Five countries (Croatia, Greece, Ireland, Malta and Turkey) have no provisions on private keeping of exotic animals in the national animal welfare law and related legislation; hence it can be assumed that any kind of animal can be kept as a pet.

Eleven countries (10 EU, with the exception of Wales and Scotland in the UK) have specified housing requirements for exotic pets with very detailed requirements in 10 (9 EU, but only England in the UK) of them, including information on minimum cage sizes, temperature, social structure, accommodation, feeding and more. There is also “Resolution on the keeping of wild animals as animal pets” that provides:

“Agreed to set up a system enabling the control of the keeping of animals of wild species as pet animals taking into account the following criteria:

1. An animal must be housed and cared according to its physiological and behavioural needs;

2. In particular, the following conditions must be met:i. space allocation sufficient for the specific needs of the animal in particular for movements and exercise;ii. appropriate enclosure enrichment with climbing material, digging possibilities, rest and hiding places as well as bathing, swimming or diving facilities;iii. possibilities to fulfil the needs for social behaviour;iv. appropriate climatic conditions.

3. The keeper must have appropriate knowledge to be able to satisfy the physiological and behavioural needs of the animal during its entire keeping

;4. The necessary conditions must be met to prevent the animal from escaping;5. The aspects related to aggressiveness of the animal and to possible risk for human safety and health should be taken into account”

6. Is it legal to keep venomous snakes as pets? Situation in Australia

In Australia, the trade and keeping of snakes is regulated on a state-by-state basis, and the laws are subject to change. 

In most instances, permits must be applied for before a snake is obtained. 

Northern Territory

You need a permit to keep any venomous snake in the Northern Territory (NT). The category of the permit depends on the level of danger attached to a species.

There are three permit categories for keeping venomous snakes:

Category 1 – mildly dangerous venomous

Category 2 – dangerous venomous

Category 3 – highly dangerous venomous

When you apply for a permit to keep a venomous snake, you need to consider all of the following:

Your property will be inspected by Parks and Wildlife staff to see if it is suitable for a venomous snake

You may need approvals from your local council, the Department of Health or the Department of Lands, Planning and the Environment

You must get your snake from a legal source that has a permit

Your permit does not let you remove snakes from the wild

Allow five days to process a Category 1 permit

Allow two weeks to process a Category 2 and 3 permit.

If you want to import or export a snake you will need a separate permit.

Snakes you can’t keep in Australia

For medical reasons you can’t get a permit to keep any of the following snake families in the NT:

  • Copperhead snakes
  • Broad-headed snakes
  • Tiger snakes
  • Rough-scaled snake
  • Eastern small-eyed snake.

Exotic snakes, venomous or non-venomous, can’t be kept by private permit holders in the NT.


For more information about how to obtain a venomous snake licence in Australia please check:

  • All snakes must be acquired from a legitimate source, and there are constraints as to which species can be kept, and in what circumstances.
  • 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.

Helpful links:

Code of Practice,  Department of Environment and Science, Wildlife management,

Captive reptile and amphibian husbandry, available at

Australian Herpetological Society
Herp Index
Hawkesbury Herpetological Society


All responsible pet snake owners must be aware of the laws and regulations that govern snake ownership.

The keeping, breeding and trading (domestic, import & export)  of venomous snakes is currently under debate and governments of several countries are increasingly exploring the regulation, or even the banning, of venomous snake keeping.

Major concerns are issues of public health and safety (providing good husbandry is more difficult in the case of venomous snakes due to the challenges in handling and managing them safely) and ecosystem preservation.

Then you have another huge legal issue to deal with: liability. You absolutely must have liability insurance of you plan to own a venomous snake.

We encourage the responsible and sustainable keeping of venomous snakes as pets by private persons as the keeping of venomous snakes can  compromise both animal welfare and human safety

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