Laws on Exotic Pets for Each U.S. State

Hand holding an iguana

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Every state has laws that define exotic or wild pet ownership. The laws decode if a species is allowed, banned, or requires a special permit. In some states, you can have a pet squirrel or kangaroo, while other states have even banned pet rabbits. Some states are more lenient than others.

Find out what your state's exotic pet laws are, and before you bring a pet home to your house or apartment, double-check with your local government to make sure the rules haven't changed or the local, city, and county laws do not ban the animal.


If you live in Alabama, you cannot possess, sell, or import fish from the genus Clarias (walking catfish); Serrasalmus (piranha); black carp; any species of mongoose; any Cervidae (deer, elk, moose, and caribou); any species of coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, wild rodents, or wild turkey.

There are no licenses or permits required for ownership of exotic animals, including lions, tigers, monkeys, or bears. If you plan to exhibit any of the wild animals, a permit is required. You also need permits for protected wild birds.


For Alaska residents, no one can possess, sell, import, or export live game animals (any species of bird, mammal, or reptile, including a feral domestic animal, found or introduced in the state, except domestic birds and mammals). The state defines all non-domestic animals to include wild felines, wild canines, bears, and primates as "live game." This restriction includes wolf hybrids acquired after January 23, 2002, and chimpanzees acquired after January 31, 2010. Prior to those dates, possession of those animals was allowed without a permit. You can apply for a permit to possess any animals on the banned list, although the Department of Fish and Game only issues permits for scientific and educational purposes.


The Arizona administrative code states it is illegal to own non-domestic canines and felines, primates (except non-infant primates that are free from zoonotic disease), alligators, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and many more. 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.


Large carnivores like lions, tigers, and bears are illegal to own, as are apes, baboons, and macaques. There is also a limit of six animals per owner for bobcats, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, quail, opossum, coyote, deer, red fox, and gray fox. If you acquired an animal in another state, you must show verification that it was legally acquired.


The California Natural Resources Agency has banned most wild animals, including seals, bighorn sheep, and falcons, from being as kept as pets in California. You are also prohibited from keeping all non-domestic canines and felines, elephants, crocodiles, and more. Exceptions to this law include cattle, alpacas, llamas, and camels.


The Colorado Wildlife Act does not allow you to keep most exotic animals as pets; this includes wildebeest, wild hogs, raccoon, skunk, hedgehog, opossum, squirrels, porcupines monk parakeets, and primates. You can keep some native reptiles.


This state restricts potentially dangerous animals. Bears, large cats, wolves, and primates are included in the list of illegal animals to own in this state. If you had a primate under 35 pounds at maturity before October 1, 2010, then you may maintain ownership of that pet.


Delaware state law requires permits for most wild mammals and hybrids. Pets that do not require a permit include chinchillas, hedgehogs, ferrets, opossum, rabbits, sugar gliders, and more. Many lizards are allowed, including anoles, water dragons, basilisks, bearded dragons, chameleons, geckos, iguanas, and more. Non-native poisonous snakes are illegal to possess.


According to the Florida Administrative Code, Class I animals are illegal to possess, and Class II animals require a permit. Class I animals include bears, large cats, rhinos, crocodiles, chimpanzees, and more. Class II includes howler monkeys, macaques, bobcats, cougars, cheetahs, alligators, wolves, giraffes, and more. A 2010 law forbids importing, selling, and releasing non-native species. This law further restricts capturing and keeping venomous reptiles and other reptiles of concern unless the owner already had a permit before the law. You do not need to have a permit to keep ferrets, parrots, hedgehogs, chinchillas, and other small rodents.


The Georgia Department of Natural Resources describes illegal animals as inherently dangerous animals. This classification includes kangaroos, primates, non-domesticated canines, non-domesticated felines, crocodiles, alligators, elephants, bats, piranhas, air-breathing catfish, Gila monsters, cobras, and other venomous snakes. If you want to have a capuchin monkey as a support animal, a special permit is required. You do not need a permit for sugar gliders or European ferrets. Domesticated rabbits and small rodents are also allowed without permits, except for hedgehogs.


For the most part, exotic animals are illegal in Hawaii. These include bears, large cats, wild canines, wild cat and wild dog hybrids, kangaroos, wild cattle and deer, birds of prey, alligators, geckos and most lizards, hedgehogs, gerbils, hamsters, and ferrets. Pets that are allowed include guinea pigs, chinchillas, domesticated mouse and rat, parakeets, and doves.


The Idaho State Department of Agriculture forbids any "deleterious" animal or hybrid that can be a threat to livestock, the environment, agriculture, or wildlife. Forbidden animals include big cats, non-native canines, primates, hedgehogs, opossum, and wild boar. You can obtain permits from the Idaho Department of Agriculture to keep forbidden animals. You do not require permits to keep llamas, alpacas, chinchillas, guinea pigs, or minks.


Dangerous animals are not allowed to be kept as pets unless you are a zoo, licensed circus, or other acceptable organization. Dangerous animals include large cats, coyotes, wolves, bears, and poisonous reptiles. Primates are not allowed as pets unless they were in possession before 2011 and already registered. You can get an exception for a capuchin monkey support animal with a permit. There are no restrictions on other exotic species.


Indiana is one of the more lenient states; it does not bar any animals, but you need permits for most of them. You need permits for Class I squirrels and non-domestic rabbits, Class II mammals, and Class III dangerous exotic animals including large cats, bears, wolves, hyenas, venomous reptiles, gorillas, Burmese pythons, anacondas, and more.​ You do not need permits for common pet animals, including exotic pets like sugar gliders, ferrets, savannah cats, foxes, prairie dogs, raccoons, and skunks.


Iowa is pretty straightforward with its exotic pet laws. You cannot possess, own, or breed any dangerous wild animal. The law defines exotics as non-domestic cats and dogs, bears, primates, numerous reptiles, and more. Wolf-dog hybrids and certain cat hybrids are allowed. A permit is required for falconry and keeping raptors.


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, and venomous snakes. Monkeys are allowed. Ferrets and monk parakeets are forbidden. You need a permit for falconry and keeping raptors.


In Kentucky, no person may possess an inherently dangerous animal, including primates, dangerous reptiles, bears, large cats, honey badgers, and more. Among the animals that are allowed are alpaca, goat, camel, chinchilla, llama, parrot, toucan, and yak.


You cannot own a primate, bear, large cats, and wild canines in Louisiana (unless grandfathered and previously permitted to do so). You need permits for venomous or large constricting snakes.


Permits are needed to possess or breed wild animals in Maine. You may not own deer, bears, moose, or wild turkeys. Other forbidden animals include lion, cheetah, wolf, monkeys, camel, alligator, monk parakeet, and mute swan. If you have permits, you can keep emu, domestic ferrets, sugar gliders, and chinchillas.


You are restricted from owning a wide variety of exotic pets in Maryland. Wild felines, wild canines, bears, raccoons, skunks, alligators, primates, certain venomous snakes, and other exotic pets are banned from ownership. You are allowed to keep hedgehogs and sugar gliders.


In Massachusetts, wild animals cannot be kept as pets. According to the state, wild animals are non-domesticated animals, such as bears, big cats, wild dogs, and primates. You do not need a permit to own ferrets, certain turtles and geckos, doves, emus, chinchillas, sugar gliders, American bison, or llamas. To keep venomous snakes or Gila monsters, you need a permit.


No large cats, bears, and wolf hybrids are allowed in Michigan. Animals not classified as large carnivores or wolf-hybrid, such as monkeys, skunk, emu, alpaca, and llama require a permit.


In Minnesota, it is unlawful to possess bears, non-domestic felines, and primates. This state has restrictions for owners of restricted pets that they acquired before the law changes in 2005. Nonregulated animals include porcupines, ferrets, camels, and llamas.


Small felines such as ocelots and servals are allowed in this state without a permit, but inherently dangerous animals, as defined by the state's law, need a permit to be kept as a pet. Dangerous animals include big cats, bears, wild canines, wolverines, primates, elephants, rhinos, hippos, and hyenas. The permit requirements are steep, and the permit is only valid for one year for one animal. Other animals not requiring a permit include llamas.


If you want to own one of the animals on this state's list of dangerous wild animals, you must register it with the county where the animal resides. This list includes lions, tigers, ocelots, wolves, primates, and poisonous reptiles. You do not require a permit for chinchillas, yaks, servals, or camels.


A permit is required if you want to have a "wild animal menagerie." This designation includes anyone who does not exhibit their large cats and bears and does not have a minimum or a maximum number of animals listed. Exotic animals entering the state must have a one-time entry permit and health certificate.

Other prohibited animals in Montana include apes, bats, gibbons, spider and howler monkeys, opossum, raccoon, nutria, skunk, foxes, crocodilians, pythons, anacondas, red-eared slider turtles, and more. Animals not requiring a permit include serval cats, sugar gliders, wallabies, African pygmy hedgehogs, parrots, toucans, and most non-venomous reptiles. You need a license for raptors used in falconry.


According to Nebraska state law, you can keep reptiles or primates. Prohibited animals include non-domesticated felines, skunks, wolves, or bears. You can apply for a permit to keep banned animals.


Nevada has some of the laxest wildlife laws. You may own primates, elephants, camels, wolves, ostriches, alpacas, zebras, non-domesticated felines, and many other animals without a permit or license. Animals that are prohibited include alligators, crocodiles, raccoons, bats, coyotes, moose, venomous snakes, and foxes.

New Hampshire

Primates, big cats, venomous reptiles, bears, wolves, and other animals are prohibited. Some birds, fish, amphibians, turtles, and snakes require permits. You do not need any paperwork to keep chinchillas, ferrets, llamas, sugar gliders, camels, pot-bellied pigs, or bison as pets.

New Jersey

Potentially dangerous species like primates, non-domesticated cats, and bears are on the New Jersey list of prohibited pets. The prohibited list includes some animals you might not typically put in that class, such as monk and ring-necked parakeets, axolotls, and ground squirrels. Zoos and exhibitors may apply for a permit after meeting extensive but practical requirements.

You need permits to keep ferrets, exotic sheep and goats, most parrots, hedgehogs, most geckos and other lizards, and most non-venomous snakes. Permits are not required to keep emu, ostrich, llamas, alpaca, or rheas as pets.

New Mexico

In New Mexico, you cannot possess non-domesticated felines, primates, crocodiles, alligators, skunks, bears, and wolves. You need to fill out a permit application for non-domestic animals. You do not need a permit for ferrets and llamas.

New York

New York law states you are not allowed to own any wild animal, including non-domestic felines or canines, bears, crocodiles, venomous reptiles, and primates. Animals that you can keep as pets without a permit include sugar gliders, wallabies, kangaroos, capybaras, porcupines, and most non-venomous reptiles.

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. You need an entry permit from the state veterinarian for bringing in skunks, foxes, raccoons, non-domestic felines, coyotes, martens, and brushtail possum.

North Dakota

According to North Dakota law, you may or may not need a license to own an animal. It depends on the category. Inherently dangerous animals are Category 4 animals that require a license; these include bears, wolves, primates, and all non-domesticated felines except bobcats and Canadian lynx. Animals that do not require a license include amphibians, arachnids, non-venomous reptiles, chinchillas, hedgehogs, and sugar gliders.


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. Since then, the Dangerous Wild Animal Act has made lions, tigers, bears, elephants, alligators, monkeys, and servals illegal to own, requiring a permit. Animals that do not require a permit include lemurs, foxes, bobcats, alpacas, and llamas.


In Oklahoma, you can own any animal with a permit. The state calls it a wildlife breeder's license. A license is not required to have exotic livestock, fish, and amphibians.


In Oregon, it is illegal to possess wild cats, bears other than black bears, canines not native to Oregon, monkeys, alligators, crocodiles, or caimans. 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 leopards, jaguars, bears, tigers, coyotes, and wolves. Animals that are allowed as pets without needing a permit include hedgehogs (if purchased within the state), non-native venomous reptiles, and ferrets.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, you can get permits to keep bears, hyenas, tigers, lions, cheetahs, elephants, monkeys, wolves, hippos, giraffes, and Gila monsters. The permits require proof of adequate knowledge and housing for the animals. Animals that do not require a permit include geckos, chinchillas, and sugar gliders.

South Carolina

Coyote, wolf, tiger, lion, non-native bear, and great apes are prohibited by South Carolina law except those owned or registered before January 2018. You need a permit to own bison, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, beaver, and deer. You do not need a permit to own monkeys, reptiles, amphibians, parrots, tropical fish, rabbits or small rodent pets like gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and mice.

South Dakota

To own a primate, hoofed animal, large cat, bear, or other exotic pet in South Dakota, you must obtain a permit and a veterinarian's examination. Raccoon dogs (fox-like mammals) and non-domestic pigs are invasive species and prohibited.


Animals outlawed as pets in Tennessee include chimps, gorillas, baboons, wolves, bears, lions, tigers, cheetahs, elephants, rhinoceros, crocodile, alligators, and poisonous snakes. There are no rules on monkeys and small wild cats, such as ocelots, servals, and bobcats. Other animals not requiring a permit include ferrets, chinchillas, llamas, alpacas, camels, giraffes, ostriches, and kangaroos.


A license is required to own many animals that the state of Texas considers to be dangerous. This list of animals includes bears, coyotes, chimps and other apes, lions, tigers, and many others. There are no laws regarding monkeys, wolves, capybaras, ferrets, lemurs, and other animals.


In Utah, you need to have a permit to have bears, all non-domesticated cats, monkeys, apes, kangaroos, ferrets, hedgehogs, coyotes, and more. The hurdles are high to get a permit; they are rarely issued. You do not need a permit to own alligators, crocodiles, alpacas, camels, chinchillas, ostriches, sugar gliders, and penguins.


Unless you want exotic animals for educational purposes or exhibitions, you cannot keep them as pets. Exotic animals include primates, bears, poisonous reptiles, large cats, and wolves. A permit is needed even for educational and exhibitory purposes. Animals that you can keep without a permit include llamas, alpacas, bison, European ferrets, ostriches, yaks, sugar gliders, chinchillas, and alligators.


Virginia allows you to keep primates as pets. Other animals that do not require a permit include llamas, alpacas, camels, and chinchillas. Animals used for educational and exhibitory purposes need a license. Forbidden animals include bears, wolves, coyotes, hyenas, lions, tigers, leopards, alligators, and crocodiles. You can apply for a permit to keep these prohibited animals.


In 2007, Washington state laws changed to restrict dangerous animals from being kept as pets. This list includes bears, wolves, large cats, alligators, elephants, primates, and venomous snakes. You can keep ferrets and llamas without a permit.

West Virginia

Dangerous non-native wild animals were outlawed in West Virginia in 2015 unless previously in possession. Dangerous non-native wild animals include bears, elephants, gray wolves, big cats, rhinoceroses, many primates, and more. You are allowed to keep ferrets and lemurs as pets.

Wisconsin Laws

If you're looking to import a wild animal into Wisconsin, you must have an import permit and certificate of veterinary inspection. There are certain rodents you can't import unless you receive authorization from the Department of Natural Resources. You cannot keep some harmful native animals as pets, including cougars, black bears, raccoons, and bobcats. Wisconsin allows the ownership of monkeys but not chimpanzees as pets.

Wyoming Laws

Wyoming bans big game animals (antelope, sheep, deer, elk, moose), trophy game (black and grizzly bears and mountain lions), and exotic species (anything not found in the wild in the state or domesticated) as pets. You do not need permits to keep domestic ferrets, alpacas, camels, chinchillas, llamas, and wolves (if captured in the state).

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