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Exotic Animal Laws by State

Perhaps you've always wanted to own a pet monkey, or you're wondering whether it's legal for your neighbor to have that cougar in his backyard. Fortunately for your curiosity, every state has exotic animal laws which allow, restrict, or prohibit ownership of certain types of animals. The following article describes some of these state laws in more detail.

Prohibited and Restricted Exotic Animals

Because of the danger inherent in animal ownership, some states prohibit the possession of wild or exotic animals altogether, while most simply restrict possession to certain species. For example, South Carolina prohibits owning lions as pets, but you can still own a monkey. In Arkansas, you can own bobcats, but not more than six at a time. South Dakota will let you keep a bear on your property, but domestic pigs are prohibited.

Many exceptions and qualifications apply to these exotic animal laws. Statutes often exempt people and organizations who possess exotic animals for exhibition, scientific, or educational purposes. Additionally, if you owned an exotic animal before a certain date, you may be grandfathered in if you registered or obtained a permit in time. However, even if you're allowed to own a certain type of animal, you may still be liable for any injuries or damage caused by your exotic pet, which can be severe.

Permits to Own Exotic Animals

In addition to prohibitions and restrictions on exotic pet ownership, the majority of states have some sort of permit, license, or registration requirement to possess certain animals. For example, in Vermont you'll need a permit to own an anaconda, but not to keep a pet alligator. Idaho requires a permit for tigers and other "deleterious exotic animals."

However, it's important to keep in mind that while your state may allow you to keep certain animals as pets, there are often county or city rules which further restrict or prohibit such ownership. Additionally, state laws are frequently changing as concerns for public safety and animal wellbeing develop further, so you should always double check to see if there is any new or proposed state or local legislation.

Breaking Down Exotic Animal Laws by State

The table below lists examples of prohibited and permitted exotic animals in each state, as well as licensing laws and key statutes.


Examples of Prohibited Animals

Examples of Allowed Animals

Special Permits or Licenses

State Statutes


Mongoose, jack rabbit, moose, deer, elk, fox, raccoon from outside state

Lion, tiger, monkey, bear

Possession of wildlife for public exhibition with permit. Protected wild birds or wild animals with permit.

9-2-7 et seq.; 220-2-.26; 3-1-3; 9-11-324; 220-2-.154


Bears, monkeys, wolves, and other live game animals

Reindeer, llama, ferret, macaw, alligator, crocodile

Possession of chimpanzee owned before 1/31/2010 allowed with permit obtained before 7/1/2010. Wolves allowed with permit.

16.05.902 et seq.; 92.029 et seq.


Jaguars; all wildlife listed in R12-4-406 except with license

Monkeys (with special license or exemption)

Possession of wildlife allowed with permit, license, or exemption

17-306; 17-320; R12-4-405 et seq.; 4-425 et seq.


Lion, tiger, bear, 6 or more bobcats, rabbits, quail, ape, baboon, macaque

Wolves under certain conditions

Permit required for large carnivores (e.g. bears) owned before 8/12/2005 and permitted within 180 days of 8/12/2005

20-19-501 et seq.; 20-19-504; 20-19-602


Wolverine, bighorn sheep, falcon

Zebra, cat hybrid, toucan, llama, alpaca, chinchilla, camel

Permits required for import, transport, possession of animals listed in §671

4700; 671 et seq.


Wildlife generally, wildebeest, raccoon, hedgehog, monk parakeet

Alpaca, camel, ferret, llama, reindeer, mink, bison, zebra, red kangaroo

Licensing for falconry and scientific purposes allowed

406-13; #008; #1103; 1315-16


Lion, leopard, bobcat, wolf, bear, chimpanzee

Primate under 35 lbs. at maturity and owned before 10/1/2010

Permits required for wild and exotic animals

26-40a; 26-55


Wild life generally, except by permit; non-native poisonous snakes

No permit required: chinchilla, hedgehog, ferret, possum, sugar glider

Permit required: lion, tiger, monkey, etc.

Permits generally required to possess wild and exotic animals

7201 et seq.; 903(6.0 et seq.)

District of Columbia

Private possession generally banned

Nonpoisonous snakes, turtles, racing pigeons

Permit required to keep more than six mammals larger than a guinea pig and over four months old

8-1808; 8-1809


Chimpanzees, tigers, lions, crocodiles, jaguars, leopards, venomous reptiles prohibited

Permit required: howler monkey, cougar, bobcat, cheetah, wolf, alligator, giraffe

No permit required: ferret, parrot, hedgehog, chinchilla

Permits required to possess certain wildlife

379.3762; 379.3751; 68A-.002, et seq.


Kangaroo, monkey, fox, wolf, crocodile, alligator, cobra

Sugar glider, European ferret

Permits for prohibited animals allowed for persons engaged in wholesale or retail wild animal business or public exhibition; special permits required for ownership of capuchin monkey by disabled persons

27-5-1 et seq.


Introduction of exotic animals to Hawaii for private use is prohibited (e.g. ferret, alligator, dragon lizard, gecko, leopard, wolf, fox, dog and cat hybrids)

Guinea pig, chinchilla, domesticated mouse and rat, parakeet, dove

Permits required

150A-6.2; 4-71-3 et seq.; 4-71C; 4-71RA; 4-71RB; 4-71P


"Deleterious exotic animals" (i.e. non-native and dangerous) prohibited without permit (e.g. monkey, leopard, wolf)

No permit required: llama, alpaca, mink

Permit required: "deleterious exotic animals" (e.g. lion, tiger, monkey)

Permits required for "deleterious exotic animals"

02.04.27; 02.04.21(720)


Private possession of dangerous animals prohibited (leopard, bobcat, wolf, ocelot, etc.)

Non-dangerous exotic animal (e.g. skunk, mink); primate owned before 1/1/2011 and registered before 4/1/2011

Registration required for permitted primate and capuchin monkey (used by disabled person)




With permit: fox, raccoon, skunk, wolf, bear, wild cat, venomous reptile, crocodile

Permits required for certain wild animals (classes I, II, & III)

14-22-26 et seq.; 312/9-11-1 et seq.


Wolf, hyena, leopard, bear, primate, crocodile, cobra, python

Wolf-dog hybrid, certain cat hybrids

License required for falconry

717F.1 et seq.


Lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, bear, non-native venomous snake (exceptions apply)

Animals not designated as "dangerous regulated animals": porcupine, monkey, etc.

Exemptions for persons licensed by the USDA and holding an Animal Welfare Act license; permits required for certain animals

32-1301 et seq.; 115-20-3 et seq.


"Inherently dangerous exotic animals": primate, tiger, lion, bear, alligator, honey badger (except those owned prior to 7/13/2005)

Alpaca, goat, camel, chinchilla, llama, parrot, toucan, yak




Bear, wolf, tiger, lion, leopard, jaguar, primate, fox

Wolf hybrid, venomous snake with permit

Permit required for persons owning exotic animal prior to effective date of regulation

76/V-115; 76/XV-101


Bear, moose, wild turkey, deer, lion, cheetah, wolf, monkey, camel, alligator, monk parakeet, mute swan

Emu, domestic ferret, sugar glider, chinchilla allowed without permit

Permits required to possess certain wild animals

12151 et seq.; 09-137/7.06 & 7.18


Fox, bear, alligator, tiger, leopard, wolf, monkey, certain venomous snakes, skunk

Hedgehog, sugar glider, animals not listed in statute

May keep prohibited animal owned prior to 5/31/2006 if provided written notification to local animal control before 8/1/2006



Non-domesticated, non-hybrid wild animals prohibited unless specifically exempted (e.g. bear, lion, monkey, fox, raccoon)

Permit not required: ferret, certain turtles & geckos, dove, emu, chinchilla, sugar glider, American bison, llama

Permit required: venomous snakes, gila monster

License/permit required for certain animals

131-23 et seq.; 131-5; 321/2.02, 2.12; 321/9.001-02; 131-77 et seq.


Tiger, leopard, cheetah, lion, cougar, bear, wolf-hybrid (exceptions apply)

Animals not classified as "large carnivores" or "wolf-hybrid" (e.g. skunk, emu, alpaca, llama)

Permits required for allowed animals

287.1101 et seq.; 287.731; 287.1001 et seq.


"Regulated animals" including bear, tiger, cheetah, leopard, monkey, lemur (exceptions apply)

Non-regulated animals including porcupine, ferret, camel, llama

Those who qualify for exemption to own a regulated animal must have registered the animal by 3/2/2005.



Inherently dangerous animals if held without a permit (e.g. lion, tiger, bear, etc.)

Permit not required:

Ocelot, serval, llama, emu, etc.

Permit required: Lion, tiger, bear, wolf, chimpanzee, leopard, hyena, etc.

Permit required for "inherently dangerous" animals

49-8-1 et seq.


Unregistered dangerous wild animals including the ocelot, leopard, monkey, tiger, bear, wolf, etc.

Registered wild animals including bear, tiger, lion, monkey, jaguar, etc.

Exotic animals not considered dangerous including chinchilla, yak, servals, camel

Permits required; registration required for "dangerous wild animals" listed in statute



Ape, bat, gibbon, raccoon, skunk, alligator

Keeping more than one bear, large cat (e.g. lions, tigers, ocelots, etc.) or hybrid of those is prohibited without a permit.

Serval cat, sugar glider, wallaby, African pygmy hedgehog, parrot, toucan

Owners of exotic animals entering state must have permit

Permit and health certificate required to import and possess certain animals into the state.

87-4-801 et seq.; 87-5-705 et seq.; 81-2-701 et seq.


Bear, tiger, leopard, wolf, skunk

Certain elk, deer, badger, beaver, deer, raccoon, alpaca, llama, camel, chinchilla, fox

Permit required

37-477 et seq.; 54-701.03; 163/4-008 et seq.; 37-245 & 246


Alligator, crocodile, bat, coyote, fox, raccoon, moose

Permit or license not required: Monkey, elephant, camel, ostrich, alpaca, zebra, etc.

Permit required for certain animals

504.295; 503.110; 503.140; 504.488

New Hampshire

Bear, tiger, leopard, monkey, ape, wolf, poisonous reptile, monkey

Permit not required: chinchilla, ferret, llama, sugar glider, camel, bison

Permit required: certain birds, fish, amphibians, turtles, snakes

Permit required for certain animals

207:14; 804.01 et seq.

New Jersey

Monkey, bear, tiger, leopard, crocodile, viper, cobra, alligator, prairie dog

Permit not required: emu, ostrich, llama, alpaca, guanaco

Permit required: Ferret, exotic sheep and goat, python

Permit required for certain animals

7:25-4.3 et seq.; 7:25-4.1 et seq.

New Mexico

Crocodile, monkey, alligator, wolf, skunk, tiger, leopard, bear

Ferret, llama, and other "permissible exotic animals"

Permits required to import or possess non-domestic animals

77-18-1;; 19.35.7

New York

"Wild animals" including tiger, leopard, monkey, cheetah, bear, crocodile

Sugar glider, wallaby, kangaroo, capybara, porcupine

Permit required to possess wolf, coyote, fox, skunk, raccoon

11-0103; 11-0512; 11-0536; 11-0511; 11-0917

North Carolina

Possession of dangerous animals regulated by cities and counties

Possession of dangerous animals regulated by cities and counties

Permit required to import skunk, fox, raccoon, bobcat, coyote, etc. but only for research, public display, zoos or circuses. Certificate of veterinary inspection required to import others.

153A-131; 160A-187; 2/52B.0212

North Dakota

Skunk, raccoon, venomous reptile,

Chinchilla, hedgehog, sugar glider, mountain lion, wolf, deer, coyote, bear, tiger, monkey

License required for certain categories of animals

48.1-09; 36-01-08.4; 36-01-31; 36-01-08.2


Lion, tiger, bear, elephant, alligator, monkey, serval (exceptions apply)

Lemur, fox, bobcat, alpaca, llama

Permits required for certain situations including exempted dangerous animals

1533.71; 935.01 et seq.; 935.02; 935.03 et seq.


Illegal to own wildlife without license

With license: bear, monkey, lion, tiger, alligator, leopard, cheetah, etc.

License not required: exotic livestock, fish, amphibians, etc.

Wildlife Breeder's License required to own exotic animals

29-4-107; 29-2-109.2; 29-2-149.1


Exotic animals are illegal including tiger, lion, monkey, bear (except black bear), crocodile, leopard (exceptions apply)

Alpaca, ferret, bison, camel, chinchilla, emu, ostrich, llama, lemur, sugar glider, giraffe

Permit required for exempted exotic animals and for disabled persons who own a service monkeys

609.305 et seq.; 609.345; 635-056-0000 et seq.


Owning exotic pets without a permit is illegal

With permit: bear, lion, tiger, leopard, wolf, cheetah, etc.

Permit from wildlife commission required to own exotic wildlife

2961 to 2963

Rhode Island


With permit: bear, hyena, tiger, lion, cheetah, elephant, monkey, wolf, hippo, giraffe, gila monster, etc.

Without permit: gecko, chinchilla, sugar glider, etc.

Permit required for certain wildlife

4-18-3; Rule 7

South Carolina

Coyote, wolf, tiger, lion, non-native bear, "great ape," etc. (exceptions apply to those owned and registered on or before 1/1/2018)

With permit: bison, fox, raccoon, bobcat, beaver, deer

Without permit: monkey, and certain other dangerous animals

Permit or registration required for certain wildlife

47-2-10 et seq.; 50-11-1765; 50-16-20

South Dakota

Non-domestic pig and raccoon-dog

With permit: tiger, lion, bear, hyena, wolf, fox, dingo, African elephant, monkey, ferret, wolverine, giraffe

Permit required for non-domestic mammal

12:68:18:03; 12:68:18:03.01


Chimpanzee, gorilla, baboon, wolf, bear, lion, tiger, elephant, rhinoceros, crocodile, alligator, poisonous snakes (exceptions apply)

Monkey, ocelot, serval, ferret, chinchilla, llama, alpaca, camel, giraffe, ostrich, kangaroo, bobcat

Permits required for persons who legally possessed prohibited wildlife prior to 6/25/1991.

70-4-401; 70-4-403 et seq.



With certificate: Tiger, leopard, bobcat, jaguar, serval, bear, baboon, chimpanzee, gorilla, etc.

Without certificate: monkey, ferret, lemur, capybara, etc.

Certificate of registration required to own dangerous wild animals

822.101 - 116 ; 240.001 - .002(a)


Bear, tiger, lion, cheetah, monkey, ape, gorilla, kangaroo, lemur (exceptions apply)

With certificate: hedgehog, coyote, etc.

Without certificate: alligator, crocodile, alpaca, camel, chinchilla, ostrich, sugar glider, penguin, etc.

Certificate of registration required for certain "controlled" species

657-3-2 et seq.; 657-3-17; 657-3-21 et seq.; 657-3-11


Exotic animals prohibited as pets, including bear, lion, tiger, wolf, gorilla, monkey, etc.

With permit: anaconda, skink, and other "restricted wild animals"

Without permit: llama, alpaca, bison, European ferret, ostrich, yak, sugar glider, chinchilla, alligator, etc.

Permit required for restricted wild animals

4709; Importation & Possession Rules


Bear, wolf, coyote, hyena, lion, tiger, leopard, alligator, crocodile

Without permit: llama, alpaca, camel, chinchilla

With permit: ferret, raccoon, coyote, piranha

Permit required for certain exotic animals

15-30-30; 15-30-10; 15-20-50; 15-30-10; 15-30-40


Bear, wolf, crocodile, elephant, lion, tiger, cheetah, hyena, gorilla, crocodile, alligator, certain venomous snakes (exceptions apply)

Ferret, llama, other domesticated animals


16.30.005; 16.30.010 -.070

West Virginia

Lion, tiger, bear, elephant, gray wolf, cheetah, alligator, crocodile, hyena

Ferret, lemur, other animals not listed as prohibited

Permits may be obtained for dangerous non-native wild animals owned prior to 6/1/2015

19-34-1 to 19-34-9; 20-2-51; 61-30-3


Harmful native wildlife prohibited without license (e.g. cougar, black bear, raccoon, bobcat)

Lion, tiger, monkey, llama, giraffe, chinchilla, porcupine, weasel, chipmunk, mole

License required to for certain wild animals

169.01; 169.04; 169.11;


Big game animal (e.g. antelope, sheep, deer, elk, moose)

Trophy game (e.g. black bear, grizzly bear, mountain lion)

Wolf, wolf hybrid

Without permit: domestic ferret, alpaca, camel, chinchilla, llama, wolf (if captured in state)

With permit (or without permit if captured in state):

Permit required for certain live wildlife

23-1-101; 23-1-103; 10-1 to 5

Don't Get Bitten by Your State's Exotic Animal Laws

In addition to federal laws governing animal ownership and treatment, every state has certain prohibitions or restrictions on which exotic animals can be owned as pets. Whether you already own an exotic animal, are thinking about purchasing one, or have been harmed by someone else's pet, contact a personal injury attorney to get a better handle on your state's exotic animal laws.

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