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Complete List of Illegal and Banned Pets in the US

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Endangered or critically endangered animals are illegal in several US states, including bats, foxes, raccoons, lemurs, and venomous snakes.

The world is full of animals. There are animals you can keep as pets, but there are also animals that are banned as pets.

Endangered and critically endangered animals are banned in most parts of the world due to their decreasing populations.

The United States has several laws and regulations that dictate the legality of certain exotic animals to be kept as pets. Different states have different rules, but some animals are banned nationwide.

This article lists the most common illegal pets in the US and gives you a list of pets banned by the state.

1. Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs

Hedgehogs are mammals found in several parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and Africa. While many countries allow them as pets, they are banned in several US states.

Hedgehogs multiply rapidly, making them a threat to biodiversity if they are released in the wild.

Another reason why they are illegal is their quills. These become spiky when hedgehogs feel threatened, making them a safety hazard for humans.

California, Hawaii, Georgia, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania are some of the states which have banned hedgehogs as pets.

2. Ferrets

Ferrets

Ferrets are medium-sized mammals that are usually aggressive. They are one of the most common carriers of rabies[1], which is why they are banned in California, New York, Hawaii, and Washington, DC. 

They also bite when they feel threatened, which can spread germs and diseases.

Ferrets are an invasive species that can escape from their cages easily. They are a threat to the ecosystem if they are released into the wild.

3. Monkeys

Monkeys

Monkeys are banned as pets in several US states. They are notorious for causing trouble and are difficult to control. They are messy and perceive everyone other than their owner as a threat.

Monkeys are unsuited as pets for many reasons:

  • They need a large area to move freely and a lot of light. 
  • They carry many diseases which can affect humans via scratching or biting. 
  • Peeing and throwing their poop is common among monkeys, making them a menace in your home.

Pet monkeys are banned in the following states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming

In Florida, you need to volunteer with monkeys and pass a written exam before you can keep them as a pet.

4. Sugar Gliders

Sugar Glider

Sugar gliders are small marsupials. Several states in the US allow you to keep them as pets, but there are some which have strictly banned these animals.

Sugar gliders are not native to the US and are found in Oceania. They are known for their gliding abilities, much like the flying squirrel. They are nocturnal beings that eat nectar for their diet.

Sugar gliders are classified as exotic animals and are banned in Hawaii, Pennsylvania, California, and Alaska. They are also banned in New York City.

5. Bengal Tigers

Siberian bengal tiger

Big cats are considered exotic pets and are illegal in several parts of the world. The Bengal tiger is classified as endangered and is one of the most banned big cats.[2] 

Having big cats as pets is not ideal. They are wild and can attack their owners if their natural instincts kick in.

Around 19 US states have officially classified Bengal tigers as illegal pets. Some states do allow you to keep them as pets with the condition that the animal was born and raised in captivity.

Bengal tigers are too wild to be controlled, which is why they should not be kept as pets.

6. Bats

Bats

Bats are one of the largest carriers of diseases in the animal kingdom[3]. The Covid-19 pandemic was spread by a bat in Wuhan, China. Along with Covid, bats are also responsible for transmitting MERS, SARS, rabies, and other zoonotic viruses.

This is one of the reasons why bats are banned in the United States.

7. Skunks

Skunks

One of the smelliest animals in the world, the skunk, is illegal in many US states. To keep a skunk, most owners remove the scent glands a month or two after it is born to eliminate the smell.

Skunks startle easily and are a threat to small children. They are hard to control due to their wild instincts. 

Indiana, Alabama, Iowa, and Florida are some of the states where pet skunks are banned.

8. Alligators

Alligators

Alligators are large, wild, and aggressive reptiles. They have one of the deadliest bite forces in the world. 

Like big cats, they are also illegal pets in several US states. Only a few states, such as Alabama, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Nevada, allow you to have a pet alligator without any permits.

9. Slow Lorises

Slow Lorises
Image Source

Slow lorises are primates found in Southeast Asia. They look like monkeys and have large round eyes. They are classified as either vulnerable or critically vulnerable by the IUCN.

The biggest reason not to have a slow loris as your pet is their toxic bite. Their bites contain venom, which is dangerous to humans. Slow lorises are banned from being exported outside of their countries, and having them is illegal in the US.

10. Kangaroos

Kangaroo

Kangaroos are large marsupials. They are native to Australia and New Guinea. Most US states allow the ownership of kangaroos apart from Georgia and Utah. They are considered dangerous to humans due to their strong legs.

Kangaroos lean on their tail and kick with both their legs which is deadly.

11. Monk Parakeets

Monk Parakeets

Quaker parakeets or the Monk parakeet are found in several parts of the world, including North America, South America, and Europe. 

Some states have banned these parrots as they can create their own flocks, which negatively impacts the ecosystem.

California, Colorado, Hawaii, Connecticut, Kentucky, Georgia, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Tennessee prohibit keeping monk parakeets as pets.

12. Gerbils

Gerbils

Gerbils are small rodents found around the world. They are playful and active mammals that reproduce extremely fast.

Gerbils live for 2 to 4 years, depending on the environment, care, and diet. They mature fast and can become a menace if left to breed uncontrollably. 

Hawaii and California are the only two states where it is illegal to keep a gerbil pet.

13. Hamsters

Hamster Overview

Like gerbils, hamsters are invasive rodents. California and Hawaii have banned this pet. The climate of these states is vaguely similar to the climate of hamsters’ natural habitat, allowing it to disrupt the natural ecosystem if they are released into the wild.

Wild hamsters can damage crops and become pests damaging the plants and crops in the regions.

14. Turtles

Turtles

Turtles are aquatic reptiles found almost everywhere on earth. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned the purchase and sale of turtles with a shell length (carapace) of less than four inches. 

Larger turtles can be imported and sold under federal law.

15. Venomous Snakes

Venomous Snakes

Venomous reptiles are not safe to have in your house. They can seriously injure or kill someone if felt threatened. 

Almost all the US states have classified them as illegal pets and prohibited their sale.

Animals Banned by State

Each state has its own laws which dictate the legality of pets. Alaska, Hawaii, and California have the strictest laws regarding the purchase and sale of exotic pets.

Owning an exotic pet requires you to understand the rules and regulations of the state in which you reside. The federal law has its list of exotic animals, which includes the most common tigers, lions, leopards, bears, wolves, and venomous snakes.

Some states are open to all pets and allow people to get whatever exotic pet they desire. Some states require special permits and licenses to allow the buying of these animals, while some have outrightly banned them.

Here is a list of animals banned in all US states.

Alabama

Alabama has a long list of banned animals:

  • Mongoose
  • Jackrabbit
  • Elk
  • Deer
  • Moose
  • Wild hare
  • Wild rabbits
  • Wild turkey
  • Piranha
  • Walking catfish
  • Fox
  • Skunk
  • Coyote
  • Nutria

Residents can also not own any other wild bird without written permission from the Department of Conservation of Natural Resources.

Alaska

black bears eating green plants

Alaska has one of the strictest laws regarding exotic pet ownership. Some of the animals banned in the state are:

  • Bears
  • Monkeys
  • Wolves
  • Game animals

A resident can own some animals without permits as long as they don’t release them in the wild. These include:

  • Llamas
  • Reindeer
  • Dromedaries

Arizona

Animals banned in the state of Arizona are:

  • Jaguars
  • Alligators
  • Wild cats
  • Vipers
  • Cobras
  • Crocodiles

Other exotic animals do require a permit before they can be purchased.

Arkansas

Arkansas actively prohibits the ownership of several canines and primates, such as:

  • Tiger
  • Lion
  • Rabbits
  • Quail
  • Ape
  • Baboon
  • Macaque

You can also keep less than six bobcats legally in the state. Anything above that number is not allowed by law.

Wolves are allowed under certain conditions. They do require a special annual permit for personal possession.

California

wolverine

Falcon, wolverine, and bighorn sheep are some of the illegal pets in the state of California. It also prohibits any wildlife that poses a significant risk to the biodiversity of the area.

Colorado

Colorado has banned all native wildlife and exotic animals from being kept as pets.

  • Monk parakeet
  • Raccoon
  • Hedgehog
  • Wildebeest
  • More than six native reptiles or amphibians

These are some of the animals banned in the state of Colorado. You can keep eagles, falcons, and hawks without a permit.

Connecticut

Connecticut has banned the ownership of several carnivorous and omnivorous animals, including:

  • Bear
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Leopard
  • Bobcat
  • Wolf
  • Chimpanzee
  • Cheetah
  • Ocelot
  • Lynx
  • Coyote
  • Jaguar
  • Puma
  • Jaguarundi cat

You can be fined up to $100 per offense if found violating this law.

Delaware

Delaware does not allow the possession of general wildlife. If they want to buy an exotic pet, they need a special permit. The state also banned the possession of poisonous snakes, native and non-native alike. Offenders can be fined up to $500 if found breaking the law.

Florida

Chimpanzees

Florida allows the possession of certain wildlife subject to a special permit. There are several animals that are completely banned in the state and cannot be kept as a pet:

  • Lions
  • Tigers
  • Crocodiles
  • Chimpanzees
  • Leopards
  • Jaguars
  • Venomous snakes

Georgia

The list of illegal pets in Georgia includes:

  • Kangaroo
  • Monkey
  • Wolve
  • Foxe
  • Alligator
  • Crocodile
  • Cobra

These animals are banned as they are considered inherently dangerous for humans. You can buy or sell some exotic animals in the state with a wild animal license, but that is limited to commercial use only.

Hawaii

Hawaii has one of the toughest wildlife conservation rules in the world. The state is careful in introducing another animal into its small ecosystem, which can disrupt its biodiversity. Some of the animals banned in Hawaii include:

  • Brown bear
  • Grizzly bear
  • Black bear
  • Cheetah
  • Coyote
  • Lion
  • Leopard
  • Wolf

Idaho

Cheetah

Any non-native animal that is considered a threat to agriculture, livestock, environment, or wildlife is banned in the state of Idaho. If you want to own an exotic pet, you need to get a permit from the government.

Some of the illegal pets in Idaho are:

  • Wolf
  • Deer
  • Cheetah
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Jaguar
  • Sheep
  • European hedgehog

Illinois

Illinois has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and prohibited:

  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Bobcat
  • Jaguar
  • Lynx
  • Margay
  • Coyote
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Poisonous reptiles

Indiana

Indiana requires a permit for the possession of these animals:

  • Fox
  • Raccoon
  • Bear
  • Wolf
  • Skunk
  • Crocodile
  • Wild cat
  • Venomous reptiles

Permits cost $10 per permit.

Iowa

Pythons

Iowa has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and prohibited:

  • Wolf
  • Hyena
  • Python
  • Cobra
  • Bear
  • Primates
  • Leopard

Residents can own legal exotic animals but require an annual permit.

Kansas

Large cats, bears, and non-native venomous snakes are banned in the state of Kansas. If you want to own them legally, you need to cover registration fees, insurance, inspections, and a recovery plan in the event of an animal escape.

Kentucky

Kentucky has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Badger
  • Raccoon dog
  • Alligator
  • Bear
  • Jackrabbit
  • Weaver

Louisiana

Louisiana considers potentially dangerous quadrupeds, big cats, and primates a hazard to the safety and health of native animals. You can own a wolf or a venomous snake with a proper permit.

Maine

Portrait of a Bull Moose

Maine has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Moose
  • Bear
  • Wild turkey
  • Deer
  • Lion
  • Monkey
  • Camel
  • Wolf
  • Monk parakeet
  • Alligator

Maryland

Maryland has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Wolf
  • Tiger
  • Bear
  • Fox
  • Venomous snakes
  • Skunk

You can be fined up to $1,000 if found guilty of violating the law.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a relatively less strict policy regarding exotic pets. It states that any non-domesticated or wild animal can be dangerous and should be avoided.

Michigan

Michigan has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Cheetah
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Cougar
  • Bear
  • Wolf-hybrid

Minnesota

Lemurs

Minnesota has several exotic animals listed as regulated animals, and they are illegal. Some of these are:

  • Bear
  • Tiger
  • Cheetah
  • Leopard
  • Lemur
  • Monkey
  • Ocelot
  • Serval

Mississippi

Mississippi has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Macaque
  • Baboon
  • Hyena
  • Elephant
  • Mandrill
  • Orangutang

Missouri

Missouri has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Ocelot
  • Leopard
  • Monkey
  • Tiger
  • Bear
  • Wolf

Owners of dangerous wild animals must register their pets with law enforcement agencies.

Montana

Ape

You can keep a single bear or a big cat legally in Montana. Some of the banned animals in the state are:

  • Ape
  • Bat
  • Raccoon
  • Skunk
  • Alligator
  • Gibbon

Nebraska

Nebraska offers special permits for exotic animals except for bears, tigers, wolves, skunks, and leopards, which are banned.

Nevada

You can own a pet elephant in the state of Nevada. Some of the illegal pets in this state are:

  • Coyote
  • Fox
  • Moose
  • Raccoon
  • Alligator
  • Crocodile
  • Bat

New Hampshire

Chinchillas, llamas, camels, bison, ferrets, and sugar gliders are permitted in the state. Bear, tiger, ape, wolf, and poisonous reptiles are banned in New Hampshire.

New Jersey

Leopard

New Jersey has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Tiger
  • Leopard
  • Monkey
  • Viper
  • Cobra
  • Crocodile
  • Alligator
  • Prairie dog

New Mexico

Wolves, tigers, lions, bears, leopards, monkeys, and alligators are completely banned in the state of New Mexico.

New York

New York allows you to keep a marsupial as your pet. Some of the banned pets in this state are:

  • Bear
  • Crocodile
  • Monkey
  • Cheetah
  • Tiger
  • Leopard

You need a permit to keep skunks, wolves, foxes, and raccoons as pets.

North Carolina

North Carolina has banned the ringtail, a member of the raccoon family. Counties and cities have the authority in the state to issue guidelines and ban animals according to their will.

North Dakota

Raccoon

North Dakota has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Skunk
  • Raccoon
  • Venomous reptiles

Ohio

Ohio has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Komodo dragon
  • Hippopotamus
  • Howler monkey
  • Elephant
  • Alligator
  • Serval
  • Big cats
  • Snakes longer than 12 feet

Oklahoma

It is illegal to own wildlife without a license from the authorities. There are no specific guidelines regarding the ban on any animal.

Oregon

Residents of the state of Oregon require a license from the State Department of Agriculture to keep exotic animals. Some of the banned animals in the state are:

  • Wildcats
  • Primates
  • Non-indigenous canines

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Leopard
  • Lion
  • Tiger
  • Monkey
  • Crocodile

Rhode Island

Rhode Island has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Primates
  • Carnivores
  • Reptilia
  • Amphibians
  • Canidae
  • Insects

South Carolina

Bison

Until 2018, South Carolina had no restrictions on owning wild animals in the country. Now, large cats, apes, wolves, bears, turkeys, mountain sheep, peccaries, bison, and furbearers are banned in the state.

South Dakota

South Dakota has only two animals placed on its illegal pet list – raccoon dogs and non-domestic pig.

Tennessee

Tennessee has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Wolf
  • Bear
  • Tiger
  • Lion
  • Elephant
  • Rhinoceros

Texas

You need a certificate of registration to own wild animals in Texas. Big cats and primates are illegal in the state and should not be kept as a pet.

Utah

Gorillas on mountain

Utah has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Cheetah
  • Monkey
  • Ape
  • Gorilla
  • Lemur
  • Kangaroo

Vermont

Vermont has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Big cats
  • Primates
  • Bears

You do not need a permit to own ostriches, llamas, bison, and alligators in the state.

Virginia

Non-native predatory animals are prohibited in the state of Virginia. These animals include:

  • Bear
  • Hyena
  • Badger
  • Weasel
  • Coyote
  • Wolf

Washington

Washington has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Crocodile
  • Elephant
  • Tiger
  • Lion
  • Cheetah
  • Hyena

West Virginia

Gray wolf, Canis lupus, eat meat in the winter forest.

West Virginia has several exotic animals listed as dangerous and banned:

  • Big cats
  • Gray wolf
  • Alligator
  • Crocodile
  • Hyena
  • Elephant

Wisconsin

You cannot own a wild animal in Wisconsin without a permit. Black bears, cougars, raccoons, and bobcats are such animals.

You can keep squirrels, rats, chipmunks, pocket gophers, and weasels without any permits in the state.

Wyoming

Wyoming has banned trophy and game animals such as:

  • Antelope
  • Deer
  • Bighorn sheep
  • Moose
  • Elk
  • Mountain goat
  • Grizzly bear
  • Mountain lion

Conclusion

Exotic animals are kept as pets by several people around the world. State and federal laws dictate the legality of banning an animal. Big cats, venomous reptiles, and bears are the most banned animals due to their ferocity and aggression.

Wild animals possess predator instincts which can trigger an attack. This is why several states have classified wild animals as illegal pets and do not allow their possession without a permit.

FAQs

Is It Illegal to Own a Monkey?

It is illegal to own a monkey in most of the US. Alabama and Texas are two of the states where you can keep a pet monkey. In Florida, you must pass a written exam and volunteer with monkeys before you can keep them as pets.

Is It Legal to Own a Zebra?

No, owning a zebra is not illegal in most states. California, Colorado, and Texas are some of the states where you can own a zebra without any permit. There are also zebra ranches in these states which cater to the needs of zebras.

What Are Some Illegal Cats in the US?

Chausie, tigers, lions, and leopards are some of the cats that are illegal in several states in the US. Alabama, Nevada, Wisconsin, Delaware, North Carolina, and Oklahoma do not have any regulations on banning big cats. Some states allow you to keep big cats as pets but require a permit beforehand. 

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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