Penalties for Owning Exotic Animals Without Proper Licensing

Eighteen states have very strong laws against owning exotic animals. These are: Alaska, California, Colorado,Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washing and Wyoming. The states which have a partial ban against owning exotic animals are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and Virginia. While thirteen states require that you get a permit from the state before owning an exotic animal, nine states have no licensing  or permit requirements whatsoever. If your desire is to own an exotic animal, whether a pet chimpanzee or a wolf, you need to follow these steps carefully: 

  • Look up your particular state laws regarding owning an exotic pet, and see if your chosen animal is illegal, or, if legal, what type of licensing is required. 
  • Call your local city hall and county offices and see if there is any local governmental legislation regarding owning exotic animals. 
  • Call your state's wildlife agency--if they can't help you they can probably point you in the right direction.
  • As a last resort, call your local humane society--they may have information on owning and licensing exotic animals. 

Are You Prepared for the Reality of an Exotic Pet?

There are many things to consider before purchasing an exotic animal for a pet. Although the animal can appear cute and cuddly (in some cases) the reality of bringing an exotic animal into your home can have far-reaching effects, which can be shocking, overwhelming, or in some cases, downright unbearable. You need to be fully aware of the following issues for whichever exotic animal you have chosen:

  • How much will this animal grow?
  • How old will this animal live to be?
  • Will this animal create certain smells and odors that I may find offensive?
  • What kind of special diet will this animal require?
  • Can this animal be potentially dangerous to myself or my family?
  • Is it Illegal for me to own this animal?
  • How much fun will it really be to own this animal?
  • What are the special, environmental requirements for this animal?

Say you decide you want to own that cute, cuddly baby tiger. Tigers can grow to weigh between 350 and 550 pounds and can live over 20 years. They are not babies very long, and grow at least ten pounds per month. They urinate to mark their territory, and the smell is decidedly.....pungent. Tigers eat meat, period-- and not hot dogs, but red meat such as beef, bison or venison. In one year a tiger can eat 2 tons of red meat. And the obvious--tigers can kill. Even if you desire a much smaller exotic, such as a Macaw, consider that a macaw's beak is capable of snapping off a human's finger, quite easily, and they live to be 50-60 years of age. Macaws are smelly and messy, and providing the correct diet can cost an excessive amount and be difficult to maintain. Whatever type of exotic you choose, they require an enormous amount of care and money to maintain, and if you neglect to license your exotic, in the states where they are legal if licensed, you may face huge fines in the range of $200-$2000. 

Getting Legal Help

If you have an exotic pet and neglected to check your state and local laws, you should immediately contact an attorney in your area who is familiar with the applicable laws and rules. Aside from fines, you could face criminal penalties and there are provisions in place for seizure and forfeiture of your animals. You need experienced legal representation to guide you in this matter, or you could find yourself in serious trouble. Remember, wild animals belong in their native habitat, not in your back yard, living room, or a cage. 

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