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5 Animals You Can't Keep as Pets (With Some Exceptions)

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

We all dream about keeping the coolest animals as pets. I mean, how awesome would it be to come home to a Quokka to share a good laugh?

Some people go for it. They live out their wild animal dreams and befriend the exotic animal kingdom. Sadly, the fantasy rarely plays out according to plan and unlikely friends quickly turn into unlikely criminals.

Here are five pets that are (unfortunately) illegal to own in most states, with some exceptions:

  1. Alligators. For whatever reason, people love keeping alligators as pets. Unfortunately, they don't realize (or seem to care) that regular people can't typically keep alligators as pets without permits -- not even helpless baby alligators. A cage fighter named "Tha Alligator" got busted for keeping one and so did the guy who kept an alligator as a "chick magnet". Law enforcement might rescue it, but they won't let you keep it.
  2. Groundhogs. In most states, groundhogs are still considered wild animals, meaning you can't just strap on a collar and claim it as your new pet. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Answer: Who cares, you can't keep it as a pet.
  3. Deer. You must be able to keep a Bambi, right? Well, unless you're the crazed couple that went hardcore vigilante on local officials (translation: unless you shamelessly take it to the press), you might not be able to keep a Lilly the Doe of your own. The reason? A fawn is cute, but a Lyme disease epidemic is not.
  4. Gerbils. How can it be illegal to own something so little and round! But alas, in states like California, they're utterly illegal. If you're spinning your (rodent) wheels to figure out a good pet proxy: domesticated hamsters, rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits. You're welcome. Unless your state law prohibits those, too. In that case: Sorry.
  5. Monkeys. We've seen "Monkey Trouble." We get it, it's an unbreakable bond of primate solidarity. Unfortunately, unless you're in one of the 17 states that allow pet monkeys, you'll have to stick to "Curious George." Pro-tip: If you're unlawfully harboring a monkey, do not feed it Frosted Flakes. But for goodness sake, feed the monkey until the proper authorities arrive.
  6. Bonus: Raccoons! Everyone loves those little bandits -- especially the man who decided to run for governor to get his pet 'coon back after it was seized by Tennessee wildlife agents. Raccoons are related to bears and therefore related to bear cubs, the holy grail of adorable pet fantasies. Many people incorrectly assume they can keep raccoons as pets, but alas many states forbid it. It's not because lawmakers hate your dreams, it's because they hate rabies.

We realize this list may come as a complete buzzkill for all of the animal lovers out there. But here's some solace: You might be able to keep a Wilbur of your own.

Sigh, if only Falcor and the Snuggle Bear were real.

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