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The Exotic Animals You Can Legally Have as Pets in the US

When we think of household pets, we probably think of cats, dogs, fish and a few species of birds, maybe even turtles, lizards, snakes, spiders and if you’re feeling really wild, pigs. But you may be surprised to learn that there are actually quite a few exotic animals that are legally allowed to be pets in the United States.

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First, you should know that laws vary wildly from state to state. Some states have extremely strict laws on exotic animals, including ones you might not think of as all that exotic. New York, for example, bans tarantulas, pythons and ferrets. Indiana, on the other hand, requires permits but doesn’t outright ban most animals.

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If you’re interested in keeping an exotic animal as a pet, you should carefully research the care and space necessary to take care of the animal, as well as whether the animal is legal in your state and what paperwork would be necessary to keep it there. You should also truly consider whether keeping an exotic animal is in that animal’s best interest and be aware of what kind of impact the animal could have on the environment if it were accidentally released. Just because an animal can legally be owned doesn’t mean it should be.

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Here are a few animals that can be privately owned by citizens in the United States. Check your state to see if it’s legal there.

  1. Hedgehog
  2. Python
  3. Tarantula
  4. Sugar glider
  5. Capybara
  6. Raccoon
  7. Fennec fox
  8. Wolf
  9. Serval
  10. Wallaby
  11. Squirrel monkey
  12. Crocodile
  13. Elephant
  14. Tiger
  15. Black bear

A version of this article was originally published in December 2015.

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