Exotic Animal Laws by State

Every state has laws that dictate what types of animals can be kept as pets. These laws are subject to change at any time, and over the years many states have expanded their list of prohibited animals. Game and fishing commissions, fish and wildlife or conservation departments, and other state departments dictate these rules, which can be found in state statutes and regulations. These documents can be difficult for some to find and decipher because they are written in complicated legalese.

To find these state exotic animal laws, visit the websites of these various state departments, divisions, and commissions, or contact your state’s Department of Natural Resources. To ensure you are in the right place when doing your online search and have the most up-to-date information, state websites usually end in .gov or .state, but that is not always the case. Summaries of each state’s exotic animal laws are provided below; for more information about these laws, see their respective names.

Alabama

If you live in Alabama and did not obtain a permit before January 13, 2021, you are prohibited from owning a variety of exotic animals, including giant snails, most non-native wildlife such as bobcats, black bears, foxes and raccoons, and venomous reptiles. Noxious species under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42) are also not allowed. These are animals that may be harmful due to invasiveness, crop destruction, or other issues. Finally, there are also restrictions on releasing non-native animals, including captive-bred animals, unless the person has a license or permit to do so.

Exotic Animal Laws by State

Alaska

For Alaska residents, no one may own, sell, import, or export any species of bird, mammal, or reptile, including feral pets, found or introduced in the state, except for domestic birds and mammals. These are all defined as wild animals under Alaska law and this restriction includes wolf hybrids acquired after January 23, 2002 and chimpanzees acquired after January 31, 2010. Permits can be obtained for scientific, educational, reproductive and public safety purposes, but these can be difficult to obtain. Alaska law also contains an extensive list of animals that do not require a permit and are legal to own to help you decide if your ideal pet is allowed.

Arizona

Arizona administrative law contains an extensive list of species of animals that you are not allowed to own without a special permit. Special permits can be granted to certain individuals or groups to keep these animals if the request falls into the categories of education, public health, commercial photography, wildlife rehabilitation or wildlife management. Restricted species include nonhuman primates, Gila monsters, opossums, skunks, foxes, squirrels and more.

Arkansas

Arkansas has a variety of non-native wildlife that cannot be kept. Owning large carnivores such as lions, tigers, and bears is illegal unless you have obtained a permit to do so by 2005. Likewise, primates cannot be kept as pets unless you have obtained a permit by 2013, but in 2021, some venomous reptiles can be kept if they are medically significant and you have the appropriate permits. Interestingly, however, you can own up to six captive-bred bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, or squirrels without a permit.

California

The California Natural Resources Agency has banned keeping most wildlife, including seals, bighorn sheep, otters, elephants, and hawks, as pets in California. You are also prohibited from keeping ferrets, gerbils, owls, primates, hedgehogs, sloths, anteaters, and many other animals. Despite this long list, you are allowed to own wolfhounds and Savannah cats as long as they are not classified as first generation offspring.

Exotic Animal Laws by State

Colorado

The Colorado Wildlife Act prohibits you from keeping most exotic animals as pets. This includes wildebeests, wild boars, raccoons, skunks, opossums, porcupines, monk parakeets, prairie dogs, and primates. However, you can keep African pygmy hedgehogs, short-headed gliders, ferrets, hybrids, and squirrels. and many other pets. These animals are called unregulated animals and therefore do not require special permits.

Connecticut

This state prohibits keeping potentially dangerous animals as pets. Bears, big cats, wolves and primates are on the list of animals banned in Connecticut. If you had a primate before October 1, 2010 that weighed less than 35 pounds at sexual maturity, you can keep that pet, but after a traumatic chimpanzee attack on a woman in 2009, primates are no longer allowed as pets. Hybrid cats, except for TICA, CFA or ACFA domestic cat hybrids, are also not allowed, but ferrets, short-headed gliders, hedgehogs and degus are. Permits can be obtained for some wild animals if conditions are met.

Delaware

Under Delaware state law, an exotic animal is “a live wild mammal, a cross between a wild mammal and a live reptile, not native to or commonly found in Delaware. An exotic animal is ecologically alien in Delaware.” All exotic animals, unless specifically mentioned as exempt, require an individual permit to be kept as a pet. There is no list of animals that cannot be kept as pets.

District of Columbia

District of Columbia law states that only domestic dogs, cats, rodents, rabbits, ferrets, homing pigeons, captive-bred birds, and nonvenomous snakes, fish, and turtles may be kept as pets. All other members of the animal kingdom may not be owned, imported, sold, etc. in the nation’s capital. In addition, a maximum of seven animals are allowed unless you obtain a hobby permit.

Florida

Florida divides various exotic animals into three classes. These classes of animals have different permit requirements, with Class I permits being the most difficult and Class III permits being the easiest to obtain. Class I includes big cats, bears, many primates, Komodo dragons, elephants, hippos, rhinos, and other potentially dangerous animals. Class II includes more primates, bobcats, servals, caimans and other wildlife, while Class III includes all other wildlife not in Class I or II or specifically exempt from permit requirements. Animals exempt from permit requirements include nonvenomous reptiles, ferrets, chinchillas, short-headed gliders, squirrels and other less dangerous animals.

Georgia

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources requires special permits for keeping various wildlife, and not everyone can get one. Wildlife that requires these permits includes kangaroos, primates, wild dogs, wild cats, crocodiles, alligators, elephants, bats, sloths, armadillos, Gila monsters, venomous snakes and more. Despite this long list of prohibited animals, you don’t need a permit for short-headed gliders or ferrets as long as the ferret is neutered and vaccinated against rabies before seven months of age.

Hawaii

For the most part, all exotic animals are illegal in Hawaii. The list of prohibited animals includes bears, big cats, wild dogs, wild cat-wild dog hybrids, kangaroos, wild cattle and wild deer, birds of prey, alligators, geckos and most other lizards, hedgehogs, gerbils, hamsters, and even ferrets. However, permitted pets include guinea pigs, chinchillas, domesticated mice and rats, parakeets, and pigeons.

Idaho

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture prohibits keeping as pets any noxious animal or hybrid that may pose a threat to livestock, the environment, agriculture, or wildlife without a permit. Prohibited animals include big cats, non-native dogs, primates, hedgehogs, opossums, and wild boars. Llamas, alpacas, chinchillas, guinea pigs, minks, hedgehogs, and some other animals do not require a permit.

Illinois

Illinois designates animals that are not allowed to be kept as pets as dangerous animals. Dangerous animals require special permits that are only given to organizations such as zoos and educational institutions. Dangerous animals include big cats, coyotes, wolves, bears, and venomous reptiles, among others. Primates are not allowed as pets unless they were owned before 2011 and are already registered with the state.

Indiana

Indiana is one of the more lenient states when it comes to owning exotic animals. Indiana does not prohibit any animals, but you will need a permit for most of them. The state classifies wild animals into three classes. You need permits for Class I animals, which include squirrels, rabbits, and southern flying squirrels, Class II mammals, which include beavers, foxes, opossums, servals and other animals, and dangerous exotic animals of Class III, which include big cats, bears, wolves, hyenas, venomous reptiles and large crocodiles.​