Can you own any animal there aren't specific laws against owning?

Suppose I’m out walking in the woods sometime this year, and stumble across one of these - a state native, the American “Pine” Marten - who is young and has lost his mom, or maybe is an almost mature juvenile and injured. I bring him home and take care of him, just like I used to my ferrets. As far as I know there is no state law against owning this weasel, so is it legal to own it as pet?

It doesn’t need to be a marten, I’m just curious about whether laws against owning specific animals exist because they are the only animals your state/country doesn’t want you to own, or there’s a greater expectation that you might try to keep said animals than you might my example of a common occurring species or non-native species (say an wallaby) that people rarely attempt to import.

So which is the more legally prudent assumption: it’s illegal unless specifically stated otherwise, or it’s legal unless specifically stated otherwise?

Depend on your State or local laws. Some give a specific list of animals illegal to own. Some give a list of animals legal to own. Many state that “wild animals” may not be kept as pets. I suspect that’s what would be the case for a Pine Marten.

As well as being illegal to own/house/keep wild animals, most states also have laws about where you can acquire your animals from. In California, you need a licence to collect animals from the wild, and most of them, including pine martens, are illegal to take from the wild.

If you find injured wildlife, it ought to be taken to a registered wildlife rehabilitator for treatment and re-release. Wild animals don’t make good pets, even if brought up from a young age.

Apparently skunks can be good pets, but it’s still probably against laws about taking wild animals.

Wild animals **usually don’t make good pets. They can make decent pets (usually in the care of a trained expert), but they usually don’t.


I just ran across an exception, in the PBS special on wolverines. (Available on Netflix.) I’d use the phrase “heart warming”. Those wolverines, in loose captivity, are having a blast being with humans.

To directly answer the OP, the most prudent assumption would be that taking animals from the wild would not be legal. This, as noted above, varies from state to state and by species within each state. Briefly, most wildlife in most places is considered to be “property of the people of the state” not convertible to the personal property of an individual except under defined circumstances.

For instance, designated “game animals” can be “taken” for personal use. Although this doesn’t usually involve taking them alive, it might. Also, certain species may be exempt from a general prohibition on possession, for instance some common native lizards or snakes. Even if the taking and possession is allowed though, the captive conditions they are kept under may be spelled out in law or regulation and/or possession may require a permit.

Birds are a special case; birds native to the USA (and other treaty signatories) are under authority of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, not the individual states, and possession is prohibited without a permit from the US Fish & Wildlife Service (except for game birds during hunting seasons).

**Todderbob **is right, wild animals usually make really lousy pets. Telemark, skunks can be asymptomatic carriers of rabies. This to me disqualifies them as pets regardless of how trainable they may be.

That’s a valid point, but I have a friend who had a skunk as a pet growing up and he (or she) was a great pet. Not the brightest idea for a pet, but they have potential.

I went to a lecture once at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC about gathering living creatures like beetles and snails and worms from city parks or elsewhere. They said it was okay to do so, but you had to either keep them forever, or humanely euthanize them when done with your classroom study or whatever. They could easily get a fungus or disease or something from the food or bedding you give them, so they must not be reintroduced to the wild. (Kind of puts teachers in a bind – are you going to give your kids wonderful hands-on experience caring for small creatures and doing science experiments with them if it means you are going to kill them later?)

I can see this being a potential problem with injured birds or cute baby squirrels that people keep for awhile and then return to nature, so “no wild pets” laws might be partly based on protecting the larger ecosystem.

I am a trained expert. They don’t.

If you want a pet skunk, (etc.,) and it’s legal in your jurisdiction, acquire a hand-raised baby from a licensed captive breeder, and make sure you have an exotics vet who can deal with your pet. Or get a dog! 17000+ years of selective breeding sure helps…

araminty, zoo educator and wildlife rehabilitator.

araminty, we’re coming from the same place. Literally.

First, in Florida the legal structure is “personal possession animals”, which does not carry the same positive connotations as the word “pet”. There are after all many animals one may possess that are a far cry from the cute cuddly-ness subconsciously associated with “pets”. At least “personal possession animals” is properly descriptive. I believe this is an important distinction to draw.

We professionals usually advise people against wildlife “pets” for reasons of practicality (Where are you going to keep it? What are you going to feed it? Do you know how hard they are to handle as adults? Etc., etc.) or safety (You realize this animal represents a danger to yourself, your family including your small children, visitors to your home including tradespeople unaware of its presence, and even possibly to your neighbors if it escapes?). We expect assurances that possessors will maintain the animal, for the remainder of its life, in a manner suitable to that species’ biological and psychological requirements and with some guarantee of safety for other people. Neither the great outdoors nor some undefined “rescue” or “sanctuary” should be expected to deal with your animal once you tire of it, or its care becomes too expensive for you.

That said, there remain people who are willing and able to make such a commitment, to school themselves in the needs of their pet and to properly provide for it. But even these scenarios may reach a bad end because of the realities of rabies.

Rabies is a particularly serious issue because vaccine producers do not test or label their product for the many species of mammals that may be kept as “pets”. There is thus no assurance that vaccination will be effective in your pet. In fact, many veterinarians refuse to dispense rabies vaccinations for species in which safety and efficacy are not proven (“extra-label usage”).

If your dog or cat bites someone, it will (in most jurisdictions) be quarantined and observed for development of rabies, whether or not it was vaccinated. Quarantines are though typically shorter and more flexible for animals who can prove current vaccination. This is not (again, in most jurisdictions) the case for other species. Florida’s Department of Public Health mandates that any mammalian carnivore (except dogs and cats) involved in a bite incident must be tested for rabies. Since this involves decapitation and microscopic examination of brain tissue, it obviously entails loss of your pet.

So you may keep your pet skunk or marten properly, and take reasonable precautions including shutting it in another room when company arrives. But if during a moment’s inattention the visitor’s six year old child opens that door, sticks his finger into the cage, and gets a “play bite” – well, you’ve lost your beloved pet. This is just one of many scenarios that people do not think to consider when they seek a wildlife pet.