Laws on Exotic Animals for Each State

Hand holding an iguana

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

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

In order to find these state exotic animal laws, check out the websites for these different state departments, divisions, and commissions or contact your state's Department of Natural Resources. To make sure you are in the right place and have the most recent information when you are searching online, the state websites will usually end in .gov or .state, but this is not always the case. Summaries of each state's exotic animal laws are below; you can find further information on those laws linked to each state's name.


If you live in Alabama and did not obtain a permit before January 13th, 2021, you are not allowed to own a variety of exotic animals including Giant African Land Snails, most non-native wildlife like bobcats, black bears, foxes, and raccoons, and venomous reptiles. Injurious species under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's Lacey Act (18 U.S.C. 42) are also not allowed. These are animals that can be harmful due to invasiveness, crop destruction, or other problems. Finally, there are also restrictions on releasing any non-native animal into the wild, including those that were captive bred, unless the individual holds a license or permit to do so.


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


The Arizona administrative code has an extensive list of animal species that you are not allowed to own without a special permit. Special permits can be issued to specific individuals or groups to keep these animals if the request falls under categories for education, public health, commercial photography, wildlife rehabilitation, or wildlife management. Restricted animal species include but are not limited to nonhuman primates, Gila monsters, opossums, skunks, foxes, squirrels, and more.


In Arkansas, there are a variety of non-native wildlife that are not able to be owned. Large carnivores, such as lions, tigers, and bears are illegal to own unless you received a permit for them by 2005. Similarly, primates are not allowed to be owned as pets unless you received a permit by 2013 but in 2021, some venomous reptiles can be owned if they are medically significant and you have the proper permits. Interestingly enough though, you can own up to six captive-bred bobcats, coyotes, gray foxes, red foxes, opossums, rabbits, raccoons, or squirrels without a permit.


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


The Colorado Wildlife Act does not allow you to keep most exotic animals as pets. This includes wildebeest, wild hogs, raccoons, skunks, opossum, porcupines, monk parakeets, prairie dogs and primates. However, you can keep African pygmy hedgehogs, sugar gliders, ferrets, hybrid dogs and many other pets. These animals are referred to as unregulated animals and therefore do not require special permits.


This state restricts potentially dangerous animals from being kept as pets. Bears, large felines, wolves, and primates are included in the list of restricted animals in Connecticut. If you had a primate under 35 pounds at maturity before October 1, 2010, then you may maintain ownership of that pet but following 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, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and degus are. Permits can be obtained for some wild animals if conditions are met.


Delaware state law defines an exotic animal as a "live wild mammal, hybrid of a wild mammal, and a live reptile not native to or generally found in Delaware. An exotic animal is ecologically foreign to Delaware." All exotic animals, unless specificially mentioned as exempt, require an individual permit to be kept as a pet. There is no list of animals that are not allowed to be kept as a pet.

District of Columbia

The District of Columbia law states that only domestic dogs, cats, rodents, rabbits, ferrets, racing pigeons, captive-bred birds, and non-venomous snakes, fish, and turtles are allowed to be kept as pets. All other members of the animal kingdom are prohibited from being possessed, imported, sold, etc. in the country's capital. Additionally, a limit of seven animals are allowed unless you obtain an hobby permit.


Florida separates different exotic animals into three Classes. These Classes of animals have different permit requirements with Class I permits being the most difficult to obtain and Class III permits being the easiest. Class I includes large cats, bears, many primates, Komodo dragons, elephants, hippos, rhinos and other potentially dangerous animals. Class II includes more primates, bobcats, servals, caimans, and other wild animals while Class III includes all other wildlife that aren't in Class I, II, or specifically mentioned to be exempt from permitting. Animals exempt from permitting include non-venomous reptiles, ferrets, chinchillas, sugar gliders, squirrels, and other less dangerous animals.


The Georgia Department of Natural Resources requires special permits that not everyone can obtain to keep a variety of wild animals. The wild animals that require these permits include kangaroos, primates, non-domesticated canines, non-domesticated felines, crocodiles, alligators, elephants, bats, sloths, armadillos, Gila monsters, venomous snakes and more. Despite this long list of prohibited animals, you do not need a permit for sugar gliders or ferrets, as long as the ferret is neutered before seven months of age and has been vaccinated for rabies.


For the most part, all exotic animals are illegal in Hawaii. The prohibited animal list include bears, large cats, wild canines, wild cat and wild dog hybrids, kangaroos, wild cattle and deer, birds of prey, alligators, geckos and most other lizards, hedgehogs, gerbils, hamsters, and even ferrets. Pets that are allowed however include guinea pigs, chinchillas, domesticated mice and rats, parakeets, and doves.


The Idaho State Department of Agriculture forbids any deleterious animal or hybrid from being kept as a pet that can be a threat to livestock, the environment, agriculture, or wildlife without a permit. Forbidden animals include large cats, non-native canines, primates, hedgehogs, opossum, and wild boar. You do not require permits to keep llamas, alpacas, chinchillas, guinea pigs, mink, hedgehogs and some other animals.


Illinois calls animals that are prohibited from being pets, dangerous animals. Dangerous animals require special permits and are only granted to organizations like zoos and educational facilities. Dangerous animals include large cats, coyotes, wolves, bears, and venomous reptiles, among others. Primates are not allowed as pets unless they were in possession before 2011 and already registered with the state.


Indiana is one of the more lenient states when it comes to exotic animal ownership. Indiana does not bar any animals but you need permits for most of them. The state classifies wild animals into three Classes. You need permits for Class I animals which include squirrels, non-domestic rabbits, and Southern flying squirrels, Class II mammals which include beavers, foxes, opossum, servals, and other animals, and Class III dangerous exotic animals that include large cats, bears, wolves, hyenas, venomous reptiles, and large crocodiles.​


Iowa is pretty straightforward with its exotic animal laws. Unless you received a permit for the animal by 2007, you cannot possess, own, or breed any dangerous wild animal. The law considers non-domestic cats and dogs, bears, primates, elephants, rhinos, many reptiles, and other animals to be dangerous wild animals. Wolf-dog hybrids and certain cat hybrids are allowed as long as they are at least a fourth generation offspring.


Kansas state law does not allow dangerous regulated animals to be kept as pets unless you are a zoo, sanctuary, or other approved facility. Dangerous regulated animals include large cats, bears, non-native venomous snakes, and hybrids of these species. Additionally, invasive species and some native animals are not allowed to be kept as pets. Despite these rules though, you can obtain a permit to own a cougar, some bears, wolves, and falcons.


In Kentucky, no person may possess an inherently dangerous animal or endangered species. Inherently dangerous animals include primates, many large and venomous reptiles, bears, large cats, elephants, rhinos, hippos, wolves and more. Among the animals that are allowed though are llamas, parrots, chinchillas, and raccoons. Permits can be obtained if you want to own a wild ferret.


In Lousiana, you'll need to obtain a permit to own a large or venomous snake as well as take any animal from the wild to keep as a pet. Animals that are prohibited from being kept as pets include bears, wolves, large cats, coyotes, foxes, and all threatened and endangered species.


Maine has a long list of restrictions when it comes to keeping an exotic animal. Numerous birds, beavers, hippos, elephants, giraffes, kanagroos, kinkajous, primates, hybrids, several types of turtles and snakes, and other animals are prohibited from being kept as pets. Maine requires permits to care for some amphibians and reptiles but surprisingly allows coati, genets, and some other exotic animals to be kept as pets without a permit.


You are restricted from owning a wide variety of exotic pets in Maryland. Primates, feline and canine hybrids, foxes, racoons, bears, venomous snakes, large cats, alligators, and more are restricted from being kept as pets unless you owned them prior to 2006 and fulfilled the requirements at that time. Ferrets and many reptiles are still allowed to be cared for along with animals that are trained to help you if you have a severe mobility impairment.


In Massachusetts, endangered and threatened species are prohibited from being kept as pets and other animals are on the list of animals that require a permit. This list includes several types of fish, reptiles including venomous snakes, some birds, wild canine hybrids, and wild feline hybrids. Ferrets are only allowed as pets if they were neutered or spayed at the time of purchase and vaccinated for both distemper and rabies.


Michigan defines any animal that is not native to the U.S. as an exotic animal and restricts the ownership of wolf-dog hybrids, many large cats and bears. A variety of wild-caught reptiles and amphibians are also prohibited as pets however permits are available for many types captive bred wildlife species including foxes, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes, and others. Ferrets are allowed as long as they are vaccinated for rabies.


Minnesota has restrictions on what they refer to as regulated animals. The state does not allow bears, primates, and felines that aren't domesticated breeds recognized by national or international cat registries to be kept as pets unless it was registered by 2005.


Mississippi has an extensive list of what they refer to as inherently dangerous animals that can only be kept as pets with a permit. Primates, wolves, wild canine hybrids, large cats, elephants, rhinos, and hippos all require a permit prior to taking possession of the animal. In order to obtain a permit, you must provide proof of liability insurance for each animal and renew it annually.


Dangerous wild animals are what Missouri classifies large cats, wolves, coyotes, bears, venomous reptiles, and any dangerous reptile over eight feet long as. These and a few other animals must be registered with the county law enforcement agency where the animal will live otherwise they are not allowed to be kept as pets.


In Montana, any animal that has not been domesticated is defined as a wild animal and if you own at least one bear, large cat, or large cat hybrid, you are considered to have a wild animal menagerie and you must apply for a permit to legally own them. This permit must be renewed each year, will include an inspection of the housing for the animals, and only allows you to keep up to 10 wild animals. Additionally, skunks, bats, raccoons, and foxes are not allowed to be kept as pets due to their concern for rabies. Serval and jungle cats, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, two-toed sloths, wallabies, and many other exotic animals do not require a permit and are legal to own though.


A captive wildlife permit is required if you want to own any wildlife including wild birds and wild mammals along with an endangered or threatened species. This permit, however, does not allow for anyone to own a wolf, skunk, bear, or any wild feline. Owning a wild animal without a permit is a Class IV misdemeanor in Nebraska.


Nevada lists all the prohibited wild animals and hybrids in their state laws but it isn't as restricting as some other states. This list of prohibited animals includes alligators, crocodiles, foxes, coyotes, racoons, skunks, elk, moose, giant African snails, and some others but it does not restrict primates, elephants, captive bred wolves, marine mammals, many types of large cats.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, a permit acquired at least 30 days before obtaining what the state considers a controlled species. This list of controlled species includes a variety of frogs, toads and salamanders, venomous reptiles, crocodiles, alligators, a variety of turtles and snakes, some birds, armadillos, bears, cavies, coyotes, cougars, foxes, kangaroos, lions, kinkajou, leopards, primates, and many more.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, you need a permit to keep ferrets, kinkajous, coati, European hedgehogs, a variety of snakes including pythons, llamas, and some birds. However, permits are not required for several exotic animals including flying squirrels, cockatiels, iguanas, hamsters, and some other pets. Potentially dangerous species also require a permit but this permit has guidelines that are more strict compared to a permit to have a ferret. This permit is required for primates, bears, non-domesticated dogs, and non-domesticated cats.

New Mexico

New Mexico law states that the health and environment department can regulate people that own primates, skunks, raccoons, foxes, or wild carnivores that carry zoonotic diseases. Like other states, some counties and cities also have additional restrictions and regulations on what kinds of animals can be kept as pets.

New York

New York law states you are not allowed to own any wild animal and the state defines a wild animal as a non-domestic feline or canine or hybrid, bear, crocodile, venomous reptile, or primate. If a person is found to possess a prohibited animal, they can be fined up to $500 for each offense.

North Carolina

North Carolina law allows individual counties and cities to create ordinances regarding exotic pets. Depending on where you live in the state, you may or may not have any regulations but there are no statewide restrictions.

North Dakota

According to North Dakota law, inherently dangerous or environmentally hazardous animals require a license to be kept as pets. Animals in these categories are zebras, otters, coyotes, beavers, bears, wolves, primates, large wild cats, venomous reptiles and others as determined by the state. Additionally, skunks and raccoons are prohibited and therefore not allowed in the state under any circumstances.


Ohio's laws have changed since the Zanesville animal massacre in 2011. More than 50 wild animals were set loose from a preserve requiring authorities to euthanize lions, tigers, bears, and wolves roaming the streets. Because of this, the Dangerous Wild Animal Act has made lions, tigers, bears, elephants, alligators, monkeys, servals and other animals illegal to own in Ohio without first obtaining a permit.


In Oklahoma, you can own almost any animal except a native bear or native large cat species. Permits are required for venomous reptiles but ferrets, primates, coati, hedgehogs, large cats and many other exotic animals that aren't native to the state are exempt from permit requirements.


In Oregon, it is illegal to possess wild cat species that aren't native to the state, bears (except black bears), canines not native to Oregon, primates, and crocodiles. You can get a special permit for a service monkey. Animals that you can have without permits include alpacas, ferrets, bison, camels, chinchillas, emus, ostriches, llamas, lemurs, sugar gliders, and giraffes.


In Pennsylvania, you must acquire a permit for exotic animals that are listed as exotic wildlife by the state. This list includes all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves and any crossbreeds of these animals. Additionally, keeping venomous snakes requires a venomous snake permit.

Rhode Island

Wild carnivores, such as lions, tigers, bears, and wolves alongside primates and native wildlife are prohibited from being kept as pets in Rhode Island. Only zoos, researchers, and other specific groups are able to obtain permits to own these animals.

South Carolina

Unless you registered the animal by January 1, 2018, large wild cats, non-native bears, and great apes like chimps, gorillas, and orangutans are prohibited to be kept as pets by South Carolina law. Confiscation of these animals will occur if they are found and were not registered by 2018.

South Dakota

In order to own a non-domestic cat or dog, bear, rhino, elephant, primate, non-domestic ferret, and some other animals you will need to obtain a permit. Raccoon dogs are only allowed if you have a zoo permit and there are specific types of deer, sheep, and goats that are only allowed in the state east of the Missouri River.


Tennessee places animals into five different classes. Class I, IV and V animals are only allowed to be kept by zoos, class III animals require no permit, and class II animals are native species. If class II animals are to be kept as pets, you must provide the name and address of who you got the animal from.


A certificate of registration is required in Texas if you want to own a dangerous wild animal. This category of animals includes wild cats, bears, coyotes, gorillas, chimpanzees, and several other non-domesticated species.


Utah has a long list of animals that are either controlled, noncontrolled, or prohibited to be kept as pets. The prohibited animal list includes wild and large cats, bears, foxes, primates, skunks, and many other exotic animals. The controlled list of animals to be kept as pets includes beavers, Northern flying squirrels, caribou, coyotes, bobcats and more and require a certificate of registration.


The state of Vermont has a long list of unrestricted animals that can be kept as pets but they do prohibit wild hogs and pigs. Additionally, Vermont requires a permit for any exotic animals that aren't specifically mentioned on the unrestricted list if you want to keep them as pets.


Domestic animals do not require a permit in Virginia but non-native, exotic animals do. Coyotes, foxes, skunks, hyenas, prairie dogs, alligators, crocodiles, wild cats, and many other animals require a permit to be kept as pets.


In 2007, Washington state laws changed to restrict dangerous animals from being kept as pets. The prohibited pet list includes bears, wolves, large cats, alligators, elephants, primates, venomous snakes and other exotic animals.

West Virginia

West Virginia does not allow a person to possess any wild animals or wildlife unless they have a permit. Obtaining a yearly permit to have wild animals isn't as simple as filing some paperwork and paying a fee though. There are many requirements for this permit including having liability insurance and permanently marking the animal with an identifier.


In order to own a wild animal in Wisconsin, it must have been legally obtained and you need to have a special license from the state. Some wild animals including ground squirrels, porcupines, opossums, and other species do not require a license but anything not specifically mentioned is either prohibited or needs a license. Prohibited species include cougars, bears, wild swine, and other harmful animals and are not legal to own, even with a license.


According to Wyoming state law, any living wildlife (as designated by the state) requires a permit unless they are specifically mentioned as being exempt or prohibited. Chinchillas, hamsters, llamas, and many other animals that are commonly considered to be domesticated are exempt from permit requirements and wolves, big game and trophy game animals like bear, mountain lions, and moose are prohibited.

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