Owning Exotic Pets: Guide to Rules, Regulations and Restrictions
You’re an adventurous person who’d love to add a pet to your life, but you’re just not satisfied with the everyday options, like dogs or cats, or even the mildly exotic, like rabbits.
You want something really outrageous, like a kinkajou or a monkey, and you’re sure you could handle a pet like that. The real question, though, isn’t whether you could handle an exotic animal; it’s whether you’re legally allowed to keep one.
There are a few main reasons why you might not be permitted to keep certain kinds of exotic pets. Animals which have special needs or requirements not easily met by the average owner might be restricted, unless the potential owner obtains a specific license.
Potentially dangerous animals, such as alligators or big cats, may be prohibited, and endangered animals probably won’t be allowed.
Sometimes, an exotic pet is restricted in certain areas because it is considered an invasive species in those areas, meaning it could threaten native species should it escape and reproduce in the wild.
Finding out which pets are legal in your area can take a little bit of digging, and there’s no standard agency to contact. The governmental department or agency which has jurisdiction over exotic animals depends upon the exact type of animal, as well as on your location.
Start with someone in your local government first. Local laws are often the strictest, and they can overrule the broader, more liberal laws of the federal or state government.
If you’re at a loss as to where to start, try the local humane society or a veterinarian; anyone who works with animals on a regular basis may be able to point you in the right direction.
Don’t forget to check with the health department – it may have its own restrictions in addition to city legislation.
If the exotic pet of your choice is legal in your local area, your next step is to check at the next highest level. For residents of the United States, check with state agencies like the Department of Wildlife or Natural Resources. Then, check with the federal government.
At the federal level in the U.S., you may need to be licensed by the Department of Agriculture and other agencies, possibly including the Center for Disease Control. Your exotic pet may be subject to import regulations if you’re getting him from another country.
Exotic pets may be fun, interesting and different, but even if you obtain approval for your animal, there are still things to consider. First, it may be very difficult to find a veterinarian for your new pet.
Second, be sure you’ve learned as much as you can about the animal’s requirements – if you’re not properly prepared for him, with the right foods and a comfortable environment, he may not adjust well to its new home.
If you’ve thought it through and gone through the proper channels, your new pet might just be a conversation starter and a loving companion for years to come.