Laws against exotic pets

The National Alternative Pet Association believes that laws prohibiting any exotic animal are cruel, misguided, and unjustifiable, and their arguments seem to make a lot of sense. Do you agree?

Let’s look at some of the reasons why a city or state might want to prohibit certain pets:

  1. Fear that some of them will get loose breed, and end up doing serious harm to native life (CA, for instance, is highly paranoid about this)

I don’t know exactly how valid such fears are, but I’ve never heard of something like that actually happening here (Well, there was the incident in Great Britian with the minks set loose by animal rights freaks, but that involved hundreds of them released simultaneously as opposed to one or two, which is most likely what we’re talking about here)

  1. The idea that (wnatever) shouldn’t be kept as pets:
    Well, how do you determine what creatures should or shouldn’t be pets? Do you actually look at how well the species in question adapts to life in captivity, or do you just assume that if you haven’t seen one before, it has to be wild?

Besides, when illegal pets are siezed by authorities, the vast majority of them are euthanized. Basically, this is saying that no matter how responsible, knowledgeable, and caring the owner is, being someone’s pet is a fate worse than death, which is utter bullshit.
So, under what circumstances(if any) is the government justified in outlawing a particular pet?

Haven’t you heard of nutria? Or starlings? Or cats in Australia? Look every exotic animal is a potential disaster for the ecosystem. Sure, most of them aren’t. But how can you guarantee that your pet locust horde won’t be one of the disasters?

Snakes came to my mind instantly.

Guam is overrun by them - the ecosystem there has nothing to hunt them. As a result the bird life is almost non-existent (snakes eat eggs) and the island suffers from frequent power outages due to the snakes wrapping themselves around power lines.

For that reason (never mind plain common sense) Hawaii does not allow snakes. The ecosystem there is too fragile. Neither do they allow ferrets and several other animals. If they were smart they’d outlaw cats, too - those things are running all OVER Oahu.

It’s a very valid fear. The mongoose was set loose intentionally ny scientists in Hawaii to kill of the rat population (another introduced species). The mongoose unfortunately likes nene eggs, and have directly contributed to the nene becoming endangered.

Also Paris is having a problem with pet monkeys that have been set loose after they become mature (and rather hostile). I don’t have a link, but recall reading about it about 5 months ago.

Also, there is the fear that exotic animals bring exotic diseases. The West Nile virus was introduced into the US by a mosquito (they suspect). While that’s hardly a pet, it could have been just as easily been caused by an imported animal.

Check out this website. The Institute for Biological Invasions.

Invader of the Month: the Monk or Quaker Parakeet, escapees or released birds gone feral.

The guy with the website kinda likes them, but people who have to live with them in the front yard say they’re big, loud, messy birds, that build big messy stick nests in colonies.

Re California and their exotic pet laws.

And check this out, on pet lions and tigers.



It is unlawful to import, transport, possess, or release

alive into this state, except under a revocable, nontransferable

permit as provided in this chapter and the regulations pertaining

thereto, any wild animal of the following species:
(a) Class Aves: (birds)

         Family Cuculidae (cuckoos)

           All species.

         Family Alaudidae (larks)

           Skylark, Alauda arvensis

         Family Corvidae (crows, jays, magpies)

           All species.

         Family Turdidae (thrushes)

           European blackbird, Turdus merula

           Missel (or mistle), thrush, Turdus viscivorus

         Family Sturnidae (starlings and mynas or mynahs)

           All species of the family, except hill myna (or hill


           Gracula religiosa (sometimes referred to as Eulabes


         Family Ploceidae (weavers)

           The following species:

             Spanish sparrow, Passer hispaniolensis

             Italian sparrow, Passer italiae

             European tree sparrow, Passer montanus

             Cape sparrow, Passer capensis

             Madagascar weaver, Foudia madagascariensis

             Baya weaver, Ploceus baya

             Hawaiian rice bird, Munia nisoria

             Red-billed quelea, Quelea quelea

             Red-headed quelea, Quelea erythrops

         Family Fringillidae (sparrows, finches, buntings)

           Yellowhammer, Emberiza citrinella

   (b) Class Mammalia (mammals)

         Order Primates

           All species except those in family Homonidae

         Order Edentata (sloths, anteaters, armadillos, etc.)

           All species.

         Order Marsupialia (marsupials or pouched mammals)

           All species.

         Order Insectivora (shrews, moles, hedgehogs, etc.)

           All species.

         Order Dermoptera (gliding lemurs)

           All species.

         Order Chiroptera (bats)

           All species.

         Order Monotremata (spiny anteaters, platypuses)

           All species.

         Order Pholidota (pangolins, scaly anteaters)

           All species.

         Order Lagomorpha (pikas, rabbits, hares)

           All species, except domesticated races of rabbits.

         Order Rodentia (rodents)

           All species, except domesticated golden hamsters,

           also known as Syrian hamster, Mesocricetus auratus;

           domesticated races of rats or mice (white or albino;

           trained, dancing or spinning, laboratory-reared);

           and domestic strains of guinea pig (Cavia porcellus).

         Order Carnivora (carnivores)

           All species, except domestic dogs (Canis familiaris)

           and domestic cats (Felis catus).

         Order Tubulidentata (aardvarks)

           All species.

         Order Proboscidea (elephants)

           All species.

         Order Hyracoidea (hyraxes)

           All species.

         Order Sirenia (dugongs, manatees)

           All species.

         Order Perissodactyla (horses, zebras, tapirs, rhinoceroses, etc.)

           All species except those of the family Equidae.

         Order Artiodactyla (swine, peccaries, camels, deer, elk, except

           elk (genus Cervus) which are subject to Section 2118.2, moose,

           antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep, etc.)

           All species except: domestic swine of the family Suidae;

           American bison, and domestic cattle, sheep and goats of

           the family Bovidae; races of big-horned sheep (Ovis canadensis)

           now or formerly indigenous to this state.

         Mammals of the orders Primates, Edentata, Dermoptera,

           Monotremata, Pholidota, Tubulidentata, Proboscidea,

           Perissodactyla, Hyracoidea, Sirenia and Carnivora

           are restricted for the welfare of the animals, except

           animals of the families Viverridae and Mustelidae in

           the order Carnivora are restricted because such animals

           are undesirable and a menace to native wildlife, the

           agricultural interests of the state, or to the public

           health or safety.

   (c) Class amphibia (frogs, toads, salamanders)

         Family Bufonidae (toads)

           Giant toad or marine toad, Bufo marinus

   (d) Class Monorhina (lampreys)

         All species.

   (e) Class Osteichthyes (bony fishes)

         Family Serranidae (bass)

           White perch, Morone or Roccus americana

         Family Clupeidae (herring)

           Gizzard shad, Dorosoma cepedianum

         Family Sciaenidae (croakers)

           Freshwater sheepshead, Aplodinotus grunniens

         Family Characidae (characins)

           Banded tetra, Astyanax fasciatus

           All species of piranhas

         Family Lepisosteidae (gars)

           All species.

         Family Amiidae (bowfins)

           All species.

   (f) Class Reptilia (snakes, lizards, turtles, alligators)

         Family Crocodilidae

           All species.

   (g) Class Crustacea (crustaceans)

         Genus Cambarus (crayfishes)

           All species.

         Genus Astacus (crayfishes)

           All species.

         Genus Astacopsis (crayfishes)

           All species.

   (h) Class Gastropoda (slugs, snails, clams)

         All species of slugs.

         All species of land snails.

No wolves.
No elephants.
No aardvarks.
No opossums.
No dugongs or zebras.
No lions or tigers, only domestic cats.
You can have hamsters, rabbits, mice, rats, and guinea pigs, but no gerbils.
No crocodiles.
No slugs.
No land snails.

However, you can have any or all of these as a pet–IF you get a permit. “Um, yes, I’m here to get a permit to keep a dugong in the swimming pool–who do I talk to?”

I know I have read several articles about ostrich farmers in the mid-west going broke and just releasing their ostriches.

It seems the ostriches do just fine out there and are multiplying since there are no natural predators other than cars.

I guess it won’t be all that long before we get to add another hunting season:)

It is a BAD idea to try to keep an exotic pet. That tiger cub sure is cute, but what are you going to do when he weighs twice (or more) what you do, and eats 25 lb of meat a day? Not only are they usually very difficult to train, but many have specialized diets, grow to unwieldy sizes, or are prone to getting ill or injured frequently. And good luck finding a vet to treat your tiger!

At the zoo I worked at, we got probably 10 plus calls a week from people wanting to unload their exotic pets on us - everything from reticulated pythons (they get up to 33 feet long, and any pet shop selling them is irresponsible IMO)to ocelots. The zoo almost never accepted any of these animals - we lacked the space to house so many. They did accept a leopard that was a failed exotic pet that had been declawed and had its canine teeth removed.

It’s illegal in the U.S. to keep native wild birds as pets. (Crows and starlings can be taught to talk; I think they’d make great pets.) However, it is legal to shoot them if they’re damaging your crops. Go figure.

DDG, I kept pet snails as a kid. I know Florida had a problem with giant African snails in the '60s, but it’s not like my Climby and Speedy could have escaped and made a fast getaway. :slight_smile:

Is a total ban necessary, or do you think it would be enough to require a licence for all exotic pets like Florida does?

And according to the link in the OP, it is a federal crime for anyone except a licensed animal rehabilitator to release any animal into the wild.

Is it actually practical to get such a permit for the purpose of getting a normally forbidden pet, or does it require an exceedingly large amount of money and/or paperwork?

One more thing: The link in the OP stated that there are an estimated 500,000 ferrets living in California despite the law. It is highly probable that some have escaped, or have been released by people who didn’t know about the law until they moved in along with their ferrets. If they had anything to worry about, I’m sure they’d already be experiencing problems.

Come, now. Not all of them. Tarantulas are considered exotic, yet they’re pretty darned harmless – much less so than an aggressive dog, for example. Nobody’s ever been known to die from a tarantula bite, and many species are incredibly docile.

Ditto for snakes, which are still considered exotic. I don’t think any private owners should keep poisonous snakes, and compelling arguments can be made against anacondas and reticulated pythons. Colubrids, on the other hand, are basically harmless – and many of them are completely harmless.

Besides, it’s a bad idea to keep anything as a pet if you can’t take care of it, exotic or not.

It is also worth noting that the line between “normal” pets and “exotic” pets is often rather fuzzy. I mean, how common does something have to be to not be considered an exotic pet?

Do you just sign a form and pay a fee?
Do you show that you have a resonable knowledge of the animal and have the means to keep it?

I have had a few exotic pets. Several snakes and even a chameleon. Snakes make great pets. They are quiet. They don’t destroy funiture. They freak the hell out of door to door sales people. I kept a garter snake in a large tank with a Howard Johnsons from a train set. It looked so cool to have a giant snake coming over the HoJos. Plus watching him eat goldfish was way cool.

If a person had the ability (knowledge and facilities) to take care of an animal why not let them? There would of course be some animals that should not be allowed. Nearly exticnt or dangerous ones come to mind. But I say let sleeping geckos lie.

Concerning feral ostriches in the American Midwest:

There are feral ostriches in Australia. Australia has the fairly warm and dry semi-tropical climate that ostriches are adapted to.

In the relatively mild but rainy climate of the UK, ostriches need shelter.

In the American continental climate, with its cold, windy winters, ostriches cannot survive without shelter.

Also, there’s the problem of what they would eat. They’re omnivores, meaning they will eat bugs and frogs in addition to seeds and fruits, but there’s not a lot of omnivore food available in the Midwest anymore. Everything’s been planted to corn and soybeans, when it hasn’t had subdivisions built all over it. Ostriches would be in direct competition with wild turkeys, who are also omnivores, and who are only now beginning to make a comeback with the help of massive restocking projects from the various state Fish and Wildlife services.

Turkeys are just barely hanging on; I doubt whether there are any feral ostriches out there.

Although I will say this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this Weekly World News factoid. However, a check of both Snopes and the Urban Legends pages turns up nothing. Sorry. :slight_smile:

I heard somewhere that you have to do that in Florida, but I don’t know about California.

The government? Exotic pets? Hell, I’d like to see tenants in apartments being able to own cats without hiding them from the landlord!! Whoever said that homeownership was supposed to be a prerequisite for having any pets at all? It sure seems to be that way in the L.A. area.

I live in New York City. Our Mayor has declared something of a personal war upon ferrets, which often makes for amusing news. A list of banned pets in NYC can be found:

I would be curious to see what Exotic Pet groups would recommend as appropiate pet ownership legislation. Does anyone have any reasonable expectation to own a pet polar bear (banned in NYC)? I think one of the problems is that “exotic” conjures up images of crazy neighbors trying to keep an elephant (banned in NYC) in the backyard. Many animals that are considered “exotics” don’t seem that exotic to me. A ferret or iguana (both banned in NYC) seem like perfectly normal pets, and a much better choice for someone who lives in a small apartment than say, a Great Dane. I personally would rather chew on crushed glass than have a tarantula in my house, but isn’t this a better choice for someone who has limited space and doesn’t have time to walk a dog?

For a while, there was a weird NYC craze with geckos (which could still be going on for all I know). You would buy a gecko at a pet store, and let it loose in your apartment. It will presumably eat all the cockroaches and other bugs in your apartment, and it lives inside the walls and behind your cabinets so you won’t see it that often. As far as I know, there’s not a tribe of giant geckos living in the sewers beneath the city (yet).

Does releasing a gecko into a New York apartment count as releasing it into the wild? :wink:

(from the link in the OP)

I’ve tried both. Tarantulas are more fun.