Pets banned in every state
Owner beware: Your pet mongoose is not welcome here.
Exotic animal ownership requires not only a willingness to care for unusual animals, but an understanding of the laws that regulate wildlife in particular states.
Laws vary widely across the country, but all are designed with the intent to protect public health and safety from animals considered to be inherently dangerous.
Banned animals range from the more obvious—lions, tigers, bears, wolves—to the obscure, such as mongooses (prohibited in Alabama) and the raccoon dog (banned in both South Dakota and Kentucky). Some regulations appear nonsensical: In Colorado, you can own a bison, but not a hedgehog. Bummer.
Some states have exceptions or require owners to obtain permits for particular animals, while a handful of states have no specific requirements for owning wild animals as pets. Many states are clear about the penalties for illegally owning exotic pets, which can range from fees to criminal charges.
Because the regulation of exotic animals is left to states, some organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, advocate for federal, standardized legislation that would ban owning large cats, bears, primates, and large poisonous snakes as pets.
Read on to see which pets are banned in your home state, as well as across the nation.
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- Banned pets: mongoose, jackrabbit, moose, deer, elk, fox
Alabama has a long list of banned species: the mongoose, jackrabbit, moose, deer, elk, fox, walking catfish, piranha, raccoons from outside of the state, wild rabbits or hare, coyote, skunk, and wild turkey, among others. Alabama also explicitly prohibits the release of any turkey (wild or tame) or nutria (a species of large, aquatic rodent). Residents cannot own any protected wild bird or animal, except with written permission from a designated employee of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
- Banned pets: bears, monkeys, wolves, and other live game animals
Alaska is one of many states that regulate exotic animal ownership through permits. Bears, monkeys, wolves, and live game animals are banned. Alaska will not issue permits for the “capture, possession, import, or export of any game animal” for use as a pet. But some animals can be owned as pets, like reindeer, llamas, and one-humped camels (dromedaries), as long as they aren’t released into the wild. Some species can be temporarily released for the purpose of hunting or falcon training.
- Banned pets: jaguars, non-domestic canines, non-domestic felines, alligators, crocodiles, cobras, vipers
Don’t bring your jaguar to Arizona—the species is banned in the state, though Arizona does allow residents to own certain wild animals as pets as long as they obtain special licenses and permits.
- Banned pets: lion, tiger, bear, six or more bobcats, rabbits, quail, ape, baboon, macaque
If you own six or more bobcats, you’re out of luck in Arkansas. That specific amount of bobcats is prohibited, as are any lions, tigers, bears, rabbits, quails, apes, baboons, and macaques. Under certain conditions, however, wolves are allowed. People can legally own large carnivores only if they had the animal on or before the date the regulation went into effect—and even then, they must meet other requirements, including securing an annual permit for personal possession.
- Banned pets: wolverine, bighorn sheep, falcon
Wolverine, bighorn sheep, and shrews are some of the more unusual animals banned in the Golden State. California law calls out specific wild species that “pose a threat to native wildlife, the agriculture interests of the state or to public health or safety.”
- Banned pets: general wildlife, wildebeest, raccoon, hedgehog, monk parakeet
Colorado law notes that there is “growing interest in the private possession of live wildlife” but also “considerable confusion over the laws regarding such private possession.” The state generally bans owning any species of wildlife native to Colorado, as well as exotic animals. There are some exceptions, however. You can own up to six live native reptiles or amphibians as pets, except for specifically banned species. Falcons, hawks, and eagles are allowed for falconry purposes.
- Banned pets: lion, leopard, bobcat, wolf, bear, chimpanzee
Connecticut considers the following animals to be dangerous and, as such, prohibited: the lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi cat, puma, lynx, bobcat, wolf, coyote, and any species of bear. Those found in violation of the law face a fine of up to $100 for each offense.
- Banned pets: general wildlife, non-native poisonous snakes
Delaware residents cannot own wildlife not native to or generally found in Delaware without a special permit. Non-native poisonous snakes are also specifically banned. Those who break the law face a fine of up to $500 and/or a prison sentence up to 30 days.
- Banned pets: chimpanzees, tigers, lions, crocodiles, jaguars, leopards, venomous reptiles
In 2011, a Florida woman and her boyfriend were sentenced to 12 years in prison after their Burmese python escaped from its cage and strangled the woman’s 2-year-old daughter to death. Venomous reptiles, as well as crocodiles, chimpanzees, tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards are banned in the state. Some wild animals are allowed via special permit.
- Banned pets: kangaroo, monkey, fox, wolf, crocodile, alligator, cobra
In Georgia, specific animals are banned unless the owner gets a wild animal license or permit, and even that option is limited to certain groups—like those in the wholesale or retail wild animal business, those exhibiting wild animals to the public, and those using the animals for scientific or educational purposes. Animals including kangaroos, monkeys, foxes, wolves, crocodiles, alligators, and cobras are considered “inherently dangerous” to humans under state law.2018 All rights reserved.