What Pets Have Been Banned in States Across the Country?
Many animals are banned as pets across the United States. However, in a few states, common domesticated pets are banned while exotic animals like big cats are not. Some cities also restrict certain animals even if they are not banned statewide.
So which states have the strangest laws about what animals you can own? They’re probably not the ones you think.
A wolfdog hybrid is a dog resulting from a domestic dog and a wolf interbreeding. These animals are completely banned in Wyoming, Rhode Island, New York, Michigan, New Hampshire, Illinois, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Georgia, Alaska and Connecticut. However, there are no federal laws regarding wolfdog ownership, so in many other states, they’re considered domesticated.
Pit bulls and their variants have been banned in Germany, Denmark, Spain, Great Britain, France and Italy, among other countries, because of widely publicized attacks on humans. Pit bulls are often used for illegal dogfighting, where the dogs are trained to be vicious and fight to the death.
Sugar gliders are banned as pets in New York City, Hawaii, Alaska and California. If you happen to live in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, you may own one if you obtain a permit. Sugar gliders are difficult to care for because they feed on nectar and sap.
Hedgehogs are native to parts of Asia, Europe, New Zealand and Africa. Most pet hedgehogs are a cross between Algerian and pygmy African hedgehogs, although some purebreds are sold, such as the white-bellied hedgehog.
Bearded dragons are another species specifically prohibited in Hawaii. According to the state of Hawiaii’s website, "Snakes and large lizards have no natural predators in Hawaii and pose a serious threat to Hawaii’s environment because they compete with native animal populations for food and habitat."
Hamsters have become popular as house pets, especially golden or Syrian hamsters. They’re native to Syria, Greece, China, Belgium and Romania naturally and generally prefer warm, dry areas like sand dunes, deserts and steppes where they feed on seeds, plants and the occasional insect.
Black-footed ferrets were once native to much of the North American Great Plains, namely wherever their main food source, prairie dogs, existed. They are endangered but have been reintroduced in several U.S. states. The "ferrets" you can buy in a petstore are actually descended from European polecats, and they’re entirely banned as pets in California and Hawaii.
It’s illegal to own venomous reptiles in many U.S. states, including Tennessee, Iowa, Missouri, Vermont, Delaware, Illinois, Georgia, New York and California, to name a few. This is true even if you have taken on the responsibility and expense of having the reptile’s venom glands removed completely.
In 2012, the United States Interior Department banned the importation of Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons and yellow anacondas. While they remain legal to keep as pets, no new snakes of these species are allowed, as they’ve successfully colonized the Everglades and pose a serious threat to native wildlife.
Gerbils are a small rodent originally from the deserts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Interestingly, a gerbil can shed its tail if a predator grabs it, letting it escape. The gerbils sold in pet stores are originally from Mongolia.
With skunks, it’s actually easier to list the states that do allow them to be owned as pets, which are West Virginia, Alabama, Wisconsin, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Wyoming, West Virginia and South Dakota.
Miniature pigs certainly are cute, but they are not legal to own as pets in many boroughs, towns and cities because they are considered livestock and not a domesticated animal. Many municipalities have ordinances making owning farm animals unlawful within the city/town limits.
The Quaker parrot, also known as the monk parakeet, is from Argentina. However, because of similarities in climate, the parrot has adapted to life in many American cities, including Chicago and New York
To say that Hawaii doesn’t want snakes is a massive understatement. The island chain’s ecosystem is extremely fragile, and many of its exotic birds would likely become extinct if certain snakes were to be introduced.
Another species that Hawaii has banned is the Caribbean hermit crab. While some tourists no doubt think that hermit crabs belong in such a tropical paradise, they’re not native. They probably could manage there just fine, but the problem is that they’d adapt a bit too well and become a threat to other wildlife.
Chinese hamsters are distinct from the species most people keep as pets but are also banned in California and Hawaii. The hamsters’ natural environment is similar to the climate in these states, and they could potentially survive all year outdoors. Chinese hamsters are said to make good first pets, but only where they’re allowed, of course.
In Alabama, certain fish are banned because they destroy fish food sources and prey on the native populations, which affects the entire ecosystem. Fish from the genuses Clariasa and Serrasalmus (piranhas) as well as Black carp are prohibited.
The mongoose is a carnivorous animal native to parts of Asia, Africa and Europe that’s banned in the entirety of the United States. However, they can be found in Hawaii as an introduced species. The mongoose was brought in to control introduced snake populations, such as the venomous habu snake.
Lions, Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!
In Arkansas, it’s against the law to own large carnivores for personal use, such as lions, tigers and bears. The reasons for this are obvious — they pose a danger not just to their owners, but also other people and animals.
Native bats are illegal to keep as pets in the United States. However, non-native species can be imported legally, such as straw-colored fruit bats, Egyptian fruit bats and leaf-nosed bats. However, according to many bat rescue and animal welfare websites, bats do not make good pets.
Crocodiles are illegal as pets in California and Georgia, among other states. In states where crocodiles can be kept as pets, a permit must be obtained from the Department of Agriculture because crocodiles are a protected species. Crocodiles can get up to 17ft long and weigh over 2,000lbs.
With monkeys, it’s easier to list the states where they’re legal. You can have a monkey (for now) if you live in Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, West Virginia or Alabama. However, primate-owning is a hot-button issue with many animal-rights groups.
Snapping turtles have very powerful jaws, and they can weigh over 200 pounds and live to be over 45 years old in captivity. While some stories about their bites are exaggerated, even baby snappers of only six inches in length can cause deep cuts.
Great apes include bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans, and their legality varies greatly States like Alabama, Kansas and Nevada haven’t banned them, while others such as Delaware, Michigan, Idaho and Mississippi allow them if they’re registered with local law enforcement. Missouri allows them if registered with law enforcement. States like Vermont, Montana and Alaska ban them as pets.
The states where you can legally own an exotic fox are Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Florida, New York, South Dakota, Ohio, Utah, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Michigan, Wyoming, Kentucky, Nebraska and North Dakota. Foxes that are native to the United States are usually banned as pets.
Raccoons are banned as pets in Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Louisiana and Massachusetts, among other states. In the states where they are allowed to be kept as pets, a permit usually has to be obtained, so check your state’s specific regulations on pet raccoons before purchasing one.
Twenty-one states have an all-out ban on ownership of all dangerous exotic pets, and these include big cats like lions, tigers and leopards. Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama do not require a permit to own one of these animals.
In many states, you need a permit to own an alligator. If you live in a state that does allow alligator ownership, you are required to provide an enclosure that keeps the alligator in and other animals out.
Where Exotics ARE Allowed
There are five states in the U.S. with particularly weak laws concerning ownership of exotic animals: Nevada, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama. If you’ve always dreamed of owning a tiger or a bear, you might consider relocating to these states.
Exotic Pets 101
Generally speaking, most pet owners in the United States are not prepared to have an exotic pet, especially a large one. There are many factors to consider besides local and state laws when deciding whether to purchase any exotic pet.