7 Surprising Pets That May Be Illegal
You love your feathered, furred, or scaled pet, but that doesn’t mean everyone else does. Some seemingly harmless animals are banned in many towns, cities, and states. Check out the list below to find out if your beloved pet is permitted where you live—or if you’re actually harboring an illegal animal.
Unfortunately, regulations may change frequently, be hard to find, or vary from state to state. We did some digging for you, but make sure to check your local or state pet ownership guidelines to make sure your pet is authorized.
African Clawed Frog
It’s not easy being green, especially if you’re an African Clawed frog in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia or Washington. In those 11 states, it’s illegal to own one of these frogs without a permit.
Unfortunately, many pet stores mistakenly sell African Clawed frogs as African Dwarf frogs because they look similar when they’re young. They’re both aquatic frogs, but the African Dwarf frog stays small. The African Clawed frog, on the other hand, can grow as large as a bullfrog, be aggressive, and carry a fungus that’s been known to take out frog populations around the world. In fact, they’ve become pests in California, Virginia and Delaware, where they devour native wildlife like fish, frogs and tadpoles.
Because of the dangers these frogs pose, there are typically steep repercussions for owning one in states where they are banned. For instance, if you knowingly possess an African Clawed Frog in Nevada, you may face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Want to find out if African Clawed frogs are legal near you? Contact your state’s Department of Wildlife for more information.
The weasel’s friendlier cousin is allowed in all states except California, District of Columbia and Hawaii. The bans were motivated by fears that the small mammals might bite and spread rabies. Hawaii is especially hard on anyone who owns a ferret because it’s the only state that’s officially free of the disease. If caught with a pet ferret there, you’re subject to penalties including a maximum fine of $200,000 and up to three years in jail.
While ferrets are legal in all other states, some cities have outlawed them as pets. As of 1999, ferrets aren’t permitted in New York City’s five boroughs—Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. However, officials at the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have called for the repeal of the ban, stating that the animals are no more dangerous to the public than other pets. Other cities like Grand Rapids, Mich., Hazelton, Penn., and Salt Lake City, Utah, classify ferrets as wild or exotic animals, and prohibit them.
Think you’re in the clear? Many states require rabies vaccinations or a license or permit to own a ferret.
These medium-sized, green and blue parrots are popular pets because they’re quick learners and great talkers. Over the past few decades, however, feral colonies have formed in several areas across the country. Many states now consider them agricultural pests. Because of this, you can’t own a quaker parrot in California, Connecticut, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Quaker parrots are legal in Ohio, New York, Virginia, Vermont, Maine, and New Jersey—as long as you follow certain regulations such as obtaining a license, clipping your parrot’s wings, or banding or micro-chipping your bird. In Kansas, ownership is legal with a permit, but good luck getting them to issue one. The state has no forms available for a permit application.
Prompted by several fatal dog attacks, breed-specific laws (BSL) that ban pit bulls or find them dangerous began to crop up in the early 1990s. Now, more than 700 cities in 43 states have authorized BSL. Even Denver, which resides in a state containing an anti-BSL clause, has managed to outlaw pit bulls.
Trouble is, the pit bull is not actually a breed. It’s a term used for a number of bully breeds including the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bull Terrier, and the Miniature Bull Terrier. If your dog looks like a pit bull—regardless if it has bully genes—it may be subject to BSL, too. In some towns, the burden is on the owner to prove the dog is not a pit bull.
Many animal welfare organizations, like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), believe laws banning specific breeds are ineffective and not the answer. For now, though, BSL are in place. If you try to move a dog into a city where it’s banned, it could be placed in a shelter or euthanized. To find out if your municipality has BSL or BSL restrictions, contact your local animal control.
Hamster and Gerbil
These furry, round critters are the picture of cuteness, so it might be hard to believe that hamsters are illegal in Hawaii, and gerbils are illegal in Hawaii and California.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the states’ climates are similar to the gerbil’s and hamster’s natural desert habitat. If released into the wild, agricultural and environmental officials worry that the small mammals will establish large colonies that wreak havoc on crops, native plants and local animals. Plus, like any rodent, they can carry rabies and other diseases when not in captivity. If you live in either California or Hawaii and have questions about the ban, contact your local Department of Agriculture.
As the most common type of pet water turtle, the red-eared slider has occupied many households throughout the United States over the years. In 1975, however, the Public Health Services Act by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) outlawed the sale of pet turtles with shells measuring less than 4 inches long. The reason: Salmonella.
According to the FDA, all reptiles and amphibians are natural carriers of the bacteria, and turtles commonly carry it on their skin and shell. While Salmonella can cause a serious or life-threatening infection at all ages, children tend to get more severely sick than healthy adults. Plus, a kid is more likely to touch or feed a turtle, and then put his fingers in his mouth. Infectious disease specialists estimate that the FDA’s ban on small turtles prevents about 100,000 Salmonella-related illnesses in children each year in the United States.
If you buy a pet red-eared slider with a shell longer than 4 inches, you’re fine in most states. The exceptions: Florida, Oregon, and Tennessee. Because the red-eared slider can spread disease to native turtles and compete with them for food and habitat, these three states have banned them as pets. In fact, they’re such a problem that the International Union for Conservation of Nature placed the red-eared slider on the list of the 100 worst invasive species.
No one would outlaw a cute little kitten, right? Turns out, nine states (New York, Georgia, Indiana, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Iowa, Alaska, Delaware, and Connecticut), and two cities (Seattle and Denver) do. They ban non-domestic source hybrid cats like the Bengal, Chausie, Savannah, Serengeti, and Safari, even though these breeds are recognized by The International Cat Association.
While some cities and states ban all hybrids outright, others only ban them when they’re less than four generations removed from the wild ancestor. In those states, you may be required by animal control officers or government officials to provide a registered pedigree showing the previous four generations. For more information about the legislation on hybrids, check out this flier from The International Bengal Cat Society). Inc.
By Jill Fanslau