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Exotic Animal Laws - Do They Apply To You?

Updated on February 9, 2013
A boy and his pet Burmese Python
A boy and his pet Burmese Python | Source

Exotic animal laws affect many of us in ways that we don’t realize. These laws are typically established to protect native species from invaders, but this is not always the case. More often than not these laws are formed without the input of experts who could shed light on the need to control exotic species.

Exotic Animal Laws In Action

An example: The State of Arkansas enacted what was to be a “Big Cat” ordinance. It was well accepted that an ordinance was needed as people were selling Lion cubs in grocery store parking lots. The State Game and Fish Commission passed a very broad Wildlife Breeder Dealer law that covered all wildlife in the state exotic and native. Now if your Guppies breed in the State of Arkansas, even though they are a domesticated species by definition, you need to obtain a wildlife breeder’s permit. You must track their progeny. You must keep veterinarian records for each of your Guppies insuring their health. You must also submit annual reports listing births, mortality, sales, or the re-homing of your guppies.

Sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it. Guppies pose no threat in the State of Arkansas, but this overreaching regulation affects all exotic species in the state. Other states such as New Jersey have passed laws to protect native reptile species. They list what species you can own vs. listing what you can’t. Georgia won’t allow the ownership of native species whatsoever while Missouri’s exotic pet laws are very unrestrictive.

Pet Hedgehog
Pet Hedgehog | Source

Research Exotic Animal Laws

When it comes down to it if you intend to own an unconventional pet, you need to verify the legalities of such pet ownership. First verify ownership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It they are ok with your ownership of that hedgehog you’ve been eyeing take the next step. Contact your state fish and game or department of natural resources and the state department of agriculture. You’d be surprised, but there are a few states in which hedgehog ownership is illegal, but if you’re in a hedgehog friendly state call the county animal control next. Counties and cities have the right to regulate what species you can maintain within their borders.

Exotic animal laws may affect you in ways you don't expect.
Exotic animal laws may affect you in ways you don't expect.

Choosing the Right Exotic Pet

If all is well, research your pet of choice to ensure that you can meet its’ needs and also that it will fit into your lifestyle. Most people aren’t equipped to maintain an adult Burmese Python. You need to realize that just because an animal is for sale it may not be right for you. Take your time. Buy adequate housing and the necessary husbandry equipment. Set it all up and then purchase your exotic pet. Those owners who find themselves with an unwanted Lion are the ones who create a bad name for everyone else!

Exotic Animal Laws - Conclusion

Exotic animal laws do have their place, but they need to be formed as the result of sound science not hysteria or political hype. Exotic animal regulations that protect the general public and the environment are reasonable, but when they adversely affect law abiding citizens they need to be re-evaluated. Do your part to become a responsible pet owner by verifying the regulations that apply to your exotic pet of choice.


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    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      Very informative article. As you know I just published an article about the Burmese Python roundup in Florida. I do agree with you that is the responsibility of pet owners to do their homework before purchasing an exotic animal of any species. People buy these animals when they are young and cute, not realizing they may grow to be large and they can no longer be housed.

      Voted UP.

    • collegedad profile image

      collegedad 5 years ago from The Upper Peninsula

      True, but there are so many common pets that fall into the wild or exotic category under the law. Quite often tropical fish and even hamsters are considered exotic and folks have no clue.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Why would you want to keep a wild or exotic animal confined?