What Are Exotic Pet Laws?

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  • Written By: Renee Booker
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 20 July 2018
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For many people, the idea of owning an exotic pets sounds great; however, the reality is that there are a number of exotic pet laws intended to ensure the safety of the humans who may come into contact with the animal, as well as to protect the animal's welfare. In most jurisdictions throughout the world, there are specific laws and prohibitions regarding ownership of an exotic pet. Before considering the purchase of one, a prospective owner should understand the exotic pet laws in the jurisdiction where he or she lives with regard to importation of the animal, as well as caging and caring for the animal.

One significant issue regarding exotic pets is whether or not the pet is considered an endangered species. Most nations throughout the world have a list of species that are considered endangered, with new species being added on a regular basis. In most cases, the importation, or ownership, of an endangered species by a private individual is a serious crime.


If the prospective pet is not on the endangered species list, then a prospective owner must still consult the relevant exotic pet laws where he or she lives to determine whether ownership of the pet is legal. In the United States, state laws are predominately responsible for the exotic pet laws that must be consulted prior to purchasing a pet. Federal law, in the United States, only has the authority to prohibit the purchase or ownership of an endangered species and control importation of live animals, in general.

Within the United States, state laws regarding the ownership of an exotic pet may prohibit ownership entirely, prohibit ownership of certain species, or require a license or proof that the animal is being caged and cared for correctly. As of 2011, 20 states banned the ownership of almost all exotic pets, while another nine states ban the ownership of some exotic pets. In states that ban the ownership of a particular species of animal, criminal charges may be filed if a person is caught in possession of a banned pet.

In states where the exotic pet laws allow ownership, a license may be required. As of 2011, 12 states required a potential owner of an exotic pet to secure a license prior to purchasing or importing the animal. The appropriate agency within a state where an applicant must apply for a permit will vary by state. As a rule, an applicant must prove that proper accommodations are available for the animal and that the person has the education and resources to be able to safely care for the animal.

Even in states where exotic pets are not banned and a license is not required, an owner may need to show proof that the animal has been vaccinated and examined by a veterinarian on a regular basis. In addition, there are a number of federal laws that govern the importation of animals in general. Prior to arranging for an animal to be imported in the United States, or any other country, a prospective owner should check the proper laws dealing with importation of a live animal.


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Post 2

@Pippinwhite -- Rather than make laws species specific, it might be better to do it by size for snakes, anyway.

So for pythons, say anything over six feet is banned. Ball pythons usually don't get that big and neither do boas. It's unusual if they do.

I also think every state should ban keeping venomous snakes without a license and inspection. I've known people who got nailed by a copperhead or rattler because they didn't have sense enough not to keep one in a cage with a screen mesh top!

Some kid in the next county over somehow got hold of a gaboon viper and was keeping it in his room! I swear, you can buy anything online. Well, it got loose in the house. Fortunately, they don't get in a hurry over much, and the snake was caught. The kid's parents were fined like $10,000 for keeping an exotic pet, and the snake was put down.

Post 1

I think keeping pythons and anacondas as pets should be banned. Too many people have them and then let them go when they get too big to handle -- as they almost invariably will.

At the very least, someone should have to have a license to get one of those big snakes, and should have an inspector come out every so often to make sure the snake's enclosure is large enough to safely house the animal, and also that it cannot escape.

There are just too many documented instances of people keeping these large snakes and they escape and harm someone. Boas are fine. They're native to the US and don't get that big.

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