Wild Desires, Legal Restrictions: 12 Animals Banned as Pets in the US

By Aaron Stone

Lots of folks enjoy having pets, including exotic ones, but not all of them are allowed. Here are 12 animals that are illegal to own in the US.

1. Wolves

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Owning pure wolves in the US is illegal. This is because pure wolves cannot ever be truly domesticated. Even if they are raised from the time they were pups, they are not tamed in any capacity. They are intelligent creatures, often evading captivity, but due to this, they are unpredictable. They are known to display aggressive behavior at times and should be left out there in the wild.

2. Lions

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The size, strength, and nature of Lions make them inherently dangerous to own as pets. Even the most docile specimen can turn on you in a heartbeat overpowering you with their incredible strength and speed.
In December 2022, the Big Cat Public Safety Act was signed into action making it illegal to own lions and other big cats across the continental US.

3. Squirrels

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In a law one might find surprising, it is illegal to own squirrels in 26 states and even if you do have one, you often need permission if you ever wanted to release them back into the wild. The reason they are banned is because they often turn aggressive in captivity And even if you did want to let one run free, their sharp claws often destroy homes and furniture.

4. Alligators

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Ownership of these reptiles varies from state to state, with Florida being one of the states where it is legal if you have a license. Florida is one of 12 states where you need some form of permit but it’s illegal in all others.
But just because you can own an alligator in many states doesn’t mean you should. They can reach up to 11 feet in length when fully grown and inflict serious bodily harm.

5. Asian Arowana

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The Asian Arowana is an exotic and expensive fish. They sell for extortionately high prices due to being a critically endangered species. They have deep cultural significance to Asians as symbols of luck and prosperity. A combination of being endangered and having cultural significance makes it illegal to own in the US.

6. Deer

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Regardless of species, deer are illegal to own in most of the United States. Even in the states they are allowed such as Colorado and New Hampshire, their ownership is subject to licenses and permits. They might look docile, but their size and temperament make it hard to cohabit closely with humans, even when large open spaces are provided.

7. Tigers

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Remember “Tiger King”? The show that took over the world during the early days of COVID showed how difficult it is to own tigers, who need roughly 15 pounds of meat daily and seven square miles of space to stretch their legs.
If they aren’t given that high volume of food, they become malnourished and aggressive. The previously mentioned Big Cat Public Safety Act has outlawed owning tigers since 2022.

8. Venomous Snakes

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Even if you defang snakes, it is illegal to own venomous snake species in 19 states. In the case of cobras and vipers that have not had their venom removed, anti-venom is not readily available in case the owner gets bitten. Due to the dangers, they are illegal to own in the majority of states.

9. Pigs

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While it is trendy right now to own “Mini,” “Teacup,” or “Micro” pigs, they are actually just malnourished piglets that will ultimately grow to over 100 pounds or more. And they can become extremely aggressive towards humans in adulthood. While pigs are important for humans, they shouldn’t be kept as pets.

10. Eagles

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Given their significance to Americana, it is not only illegal to own eagles, but illegal as well to hunt them, or to own their feathers, eggs, or nests. They are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and owning one can result in heavy fines.

11. Hedgehogs

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Despite their cuteness, hedgehogs are surprisingly illegal hedgehogs are illegal to own in California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania, as well as the Five Boroughs of New York. They can be classified as invasive and can carry disease but are generally harmless, which makes this law surprising as many pet owners love caring for their hedgehogs.

12. Lemurs

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Ownership of lemurs is illegal in Ohio, Nevada, Florida, and North Carolina. Additionally, the sale or transfer of lemurs is highly regulated in many other states. Lemurs are disease carriers and often they are transferable to humans and vice versa. Also, it is cruel to own a single lemur, since they like to live in packs. But even if you could keep them, you probably wouldn’t want to. Female lemurs emit a pungent odor to attract males which is very difficult to get rid of.

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