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4 Exotic Animals You Can Legally Own

Updated on October 30, 2015

If you ask or even just look around parks and other areas where people bring their pets, you will see that, clearly, cats and dogs are the pets of choice. This has been the state of events for the longest time now and for very good reason. For one, cats and dogs are domesticated so this means they are easier for people to deal with at home.

There is no denying that cats and dogs make super pets. But for people who want pets that are unique and stand out, then it may be time to look into exotic pets.

Exotic pets are really a sight to see. And it's not just them that would stand out; they will definitely make you stand out as well. As a pet owner, you will love how there will be nothing else like them in the block. You have a pet that is as unique as you are and that makes owning an exotic pet all the more tempting.

Definition of Exotic Pets

When people hear the word exotic pets, they often tend to picture things that are wild, hairy, and could possibly kill people. However, that is not the case at all times. While some exotic pets do tend to be the wild and dangerous type, there are also exotic pets that are on the sweet and cuddly side.

The thing with exotic pets is that once an animal is not local or indigenous to your area, it immediately becomes exotic. So while a penguin may be considered exotic in places like Thailand, they are not considered exotic in countries where they live and breed. While a snake may be exotic in NYC, the same cannot be said for places like India where snakes are kept as pets on a regular basis.

When you look for exotic pets, it is best to keep that in mind. If you want an exotic pet, you do not have to go for one that will potentially kill you because you can go for one that is small and cuddly but still uncommon and unique. Besides, if you do not have the guts to take care of an exotic animal that can kill you, then you can just as easily opt for an exotic pet that will just sit there and look cool for all your guests to fawn over or run away from, depending on what you decide to get.

Laws and Exotic Pets

Now that you know that “exotic” doesn’t always mean “deadly and wild”, it is time to think about the legalities that involve owning exotic pets. It is good to note that nearly all types of animals are legal in the US, although there are some exceptions and considerations dictated by certain states. These considerations include factors like health concerns, extinction, escapes, and danger of injuries. In a state where certain plant species may be put in danger due to the introduction of non-native animals, there tend to be very strict laws in place.

Before you buy a pet or take it home, make sure you do a thorough check of your state’s laws on exotic pets. This way, you do not end up wasting your money on a pet that you cannot even bring home, or risk heavy fines if you do. In places like Vermont and California, you cannot bring in exotic pets at all. The same goes for New Hampshire, though in some states, you can buy and own exotic pets but only if you get a special license for them. Smuggling in or owning exotic pets in places where they are banned can carry very stiff fines and result in the confiscation of the animal as well as possible time behind bars.

Exotic Pets You can Own with No Problems

Now that you know some of the rules regarding exotic pets, you might be ready to go shopping for some.

Below are some pets that are considered exotic and are perfectly legal in the US. They also do not require you to get any special licenses so you shouldn’t have any run-ins with the law if you went out and got them today.

  • Madagascar hissing cockroaches – What do you do when you see a cockroach crawling in your house? For some people, it involves running as far away as possible while some will grab some bug spray and kill that cockroach. You might end up doing that to household cockroaches, but definitely not when it comes to the Madagascar cockroach. For one, these cockroaches are quite gentle and while their size may look alarming, they are not harmful at all. You may buy a Madagascar cockroach for as little as $2 and as much as $6. If you want to decorate your cockroaches with Swarovski crystals and wear them as accessories, you may do so.
  • Tarantulas- These arachnids have a very bad reputation, but they are largely undeserved. The thing with tarantulas is that their bark is worse than their bite in the sense that they very rarely bite people. These pets are arresting and interesting, and the good news is that you can get them for as low as $15. Do remember that these arachnids can grow as large as dinner plates so make sure you have the space and the stomach to handle a 7 inch spider.
  • Bearded dragon – Perhaps you have a deep love of reptiles or have been watching too many fantasy series on TV, pushing you to suddenly want your own dragon. Those creatures mostly come from legends, so they're not exactly pets that you can buy anywhere. A bearded dragon however, is a different story. These come from Australia and have a lifespan of just about 8 years, which is the same as that of a giant breed dog. These bearded dragons are quite gentle and calm so they make very popular pets. Expect them to grow anywhere from 12 to 24 inches. They are one of the most common exotic pets in the US and you can buy one from most pet stores for about $100.
  • Sugarglider – Have you always wanted a kangaroo but find that buying and owning one is next to impossible? If that is the case then you may always opt for a sugarglider. This tiny marsupial is a cousin of the kangaroo and is as cute as a button. They grow only to about 7 inches in height and weigh about 6 ounces, but they live up to 16 years. As you may have guessed from the name, they love sweet food and can glide through the air. Gliders are very social animals and bond quite easily with their owners. If you cannot be with your sugar glider for long periods of time, you ought to consider getting a pair. They become sad when left alone for too long and they can actually die from loneliness.

Poll on Exotic Pets

Which of these would you love to have as a pet?

See results

Exotic Pet Care

Before you get an exotic pet, or any pet for that matter, you need to make sure that they are legal in your state and that you have the capacity to take care of them. Remember that pets have very little say about their owners and conditions, and it is but fair and decent for you to make sure that your pet gets the best possible care.

If you feel like you cannot care for a Madagascar cockroach for the 1 to 3 years that it is alive, do not get one. If you think you can stand a 24 inch bearded dragon, then do not get one. It is as simple as that.


Submit a Comment
  • kgmonline profile imageAUTHOR

    Geri MIleff 

    3 years ago from Czech Republic

    @craftybegonia Thank you for your comment :)

    @Melissa A Smith Thank you for your comment :) You are right!

  • Melissa A Smith profile image

    Melissa A Smith 

    3 years ago from New York

    You can 'legally own' almost any animal not federally protected, but it depends on your state and local ordinances. Sugar gliders are not legal everywhere.

  • craftybegonia profile image


    3 years ago from Southwestern, United States

    Very interesting. None of these is my cup of tea, but I would have loved to own a cheetah or a margay cat.


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