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State Regulations for Big Cats

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Summary of State Laws Relating to Private Possession of Exotic Animals

For a color-coded map of states and regulations, click here.

Note: The animals listed within the below regulations are not a complete list of the animals regulated by the various states. The listed animals are merely a sampling from each state. Please check the actual regulation for a complete list of animals covered.

State Type of Regu-
lation
Summary of Law Citation
Alabama N No person, firm, corporation, partnership or association may possess, sell, offer for sale, import or cause to be brought or imported into the state the following fish or animals: fish from the genus Clarias; fish from the genus Serrasalmus; Black carp; any species of mongoose, any member of the family Cervidae (deer, elk, moose, caribou), species of coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk, wild rodents or wild turkey. However, there are no requirements for a person possessing exotic animals, such as lions, tigers, monkeys, etc. ALA. ADMIN CODE r. 220-2-.26
Alaska B No person may possess, import, release, export, or assist in importing, releasing, or exporting, live game animals as "pets." Live game animals are defined as any species of bird, reptile, and mammal, including a feral domestic animal, found or introduced in the state, except domestic birds and mammals. The Department interprets live game to include all animals, including exotics, such as wild felines, wolves, bears, monkeys, etc., not listed as domestic under Alaska Admin. Code tit. 5. 92.029. ALASKA ADMIN. CODE tit. 5. 92.029; ALASKA STAT. 16.05.940
Arizona L Persons possessing restricted wildlife must obtain a wildlife holding permit to lawfully possess the animal. The Department issues wildlife holding permits to: (1) individuals who legally possess restricted live wildlife and are moving into the state, (2) for educational display, (3) or advancement of science, and (4) to foster an animal unable to return to the wild. Persons already residing in Arizona are not permitted to possess restricted live wildlife as "pets" unless they qualify for a permit. Restricted live wildlife includes, but is not limited to the following species: all species of Carnivora (canines, felines, excluding domestic); orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, alligators, crocodiles, cobras, vipers, etc. However, you can possess all other non-infant primates as "pets" if the animal is free from any zoonotic diseases. ARIZ. COMP. ADMIN R. & REGS. R12-4-406; R12-4-409; R12-4-417; R12-4-425; R12-4-426
Arkansas N It is unlawful to possess 6 or more bobcat, coyote, deer, gray fox, red fox, opossum, quail, rabbit, raccoon and squirrel. If a person wishes to possess other animals not originally from the state and not listed above then the person must show upon request verification that the animal was legally acquired in the previous state. In addition, possessors of wolves and wolf-dog hybrids must maintain health records, provide adequate care and confinement, and be vaccinated.* GFC 18.17, *to be designated.
California B It is unlawful for persons to possess wild animals unless the animal was in possession prior to January 1992. Wild animals include, but are not limited to the following orders: Primates; Marsupialia; Insectivora (shrews); Chiroptera (bats); Carnivora (non-domestic dog and cats); Proboscidea (elephants); Perissodactyla (zebras, horses, rhinos); Reptilia (crocodiles, cobras, coral snakes, pit vipers, snapping turtles, alligators); etc. CAL. CODE REGS. Tit. 14, 671 and 671.1
Colorado B It is unlawful for persons to possess most exotic species unless it is for commercial purposes. Persons may, however, possess up to 6 live native reptiles, and unregulated wildlife. Unregulated wildlife includes but is not limited to: sugar gliders, wallabies, wallaroos, kangaroos, etc. 2 COLO. CODE REGS. 406-8
Connecticut B* It is unlawful for persons to possess potentially dangerous animals unless the animal was in possession prior to May 23, 1983. Potentially dangerous animals include: the Felidae family (lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, ocelot, jaguarundi cat, puma, lynx, and bobcat); the Canidae family (wolf and coyote); the Ursidae family (black bear, grizzly bear, and brown bear); and venomous reptiles, alligators, crocodiles. However, there are no state requirements for a person possessing non-human primates. CONN. GEN. STAT. 26-40a
Delaware L All persons must obtain a permit before they can possess a live wild mammal or hybrid of a wild animal. It is illegal to possess, sell, or exhibit any poisonous snake not native to or generally found in Delaware. DEL. CODE ANN tit. 3, 7201, 7202, and 7203
Florida B* & L It is unlawful for a person to possess any Class I Wildlife unless the animal was in possession prior to August 1, 1980. Class I Wildlife includes, but is not limited to the following: chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, leopards, jaguars, tigers, lions, bears, elephants, crocodiles, etc. Persons may possess Class II Wildlife if he or she obtains a permit from the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. Class II Wildlife includes, but is not limited to the following: howler and guereza monkeys, macaques, cougars, bobcats, cheetahs, ocelots, servals, coyotes, wolves, hyenas, alligators, etc. All other wildlife in personal possession not defined as Class I or II Wildlife must obtain a no-cost permit. In addition, FL has promulgated regulations governing possession of Class II and III animals (caging requirements, etc.). FLA. ADMIN. CODE ANN. r. 68A-6.002, 68A-6.0021, and 68A-6.0022
Georgia B It is unlawful for persons to possess inherently dangerous animals as "pets." Inherently dangerous animals include, but are not limited to the following orders: Marsupialia (kangaroos); Primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, macaques); Carnivora (canines, felines); Proboscidae (elephants); Crocodylia (crocodiles, alligators, cobras, all poisonous rear-fanged species). Only persons engaged in the wholesale or retail wild animal business or persons exhibiting wild animals to the public will be issued a license to possess inherently dangerous animals. GA. CODE ANN. 27-5-4 and 27-5-5
Hawaii B It is unlawful for persons to introduce exotic animals for private use into Hawaii. Exotic animals include, but are not limited to: Non-Human Primates, Felidae family (lion, leopard, cheetah,); the Canidae family (wolf and coyote); and the Ursidae family (black bear, grizzly bear, and brown bear), etc. HAW. ADMIN. RULES 4-71-5, 4-71-6, 4-71-6.1, and 4-71-6.5
Idaho N All species of mammals, birds, or reptiles that are found in the wild and are not species of special concern may be held in captivity without a permit so long as the possessor retains proof that the animal was lawfully obtained. In addition, before bringing an animal into the state an owner must obtain an import permit and comply with specific caging requirements for the animal. IDAHO CODE 36-701
Illinois B* No person may harbor, care for, act as a custodian, or maintain in his possession any dangerous animal except at a properly maintained zoological park, federally licensed exhibit, circus, scientific or educational institution, research laboratory, veterinary hospital or animal refuge. "Dangerous animal" means a lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, bear, hyena, wolf, coyote, or any poisonous life-threatening reptile. However, there are no state requirements for a person possessing non-human primates and other exotic species not defined as "dangerous animals." ILL. REV STAT, ch. 720, para. 585/0.1, 585/1, 585/2, and 585/3
Indiana L All persons who possess a dangerous exotic animal must obtain a permit for each animal they possess. Dangerous exotic animal includes the following animals: lions, tigers, jaguars, cougars, panthers, cheetahs, wolves, coyotes, jackals, hyenas, bears, venomous reptiles, alligators, crocodiles, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, Burmese pythons, reticulated pythons, green and yellow anacondas, etc. However, there are no state requirements for private possession of monkeys. IND. CODE 14-22-26-1 through 14-22-26-11. *not on file
Iowa O There are no state laws governing private possession of exotic animals. N/A
Kansas N & L Exotic wildlife species can be possessed without a license, provided that the exotic wildlife was legally captured, raised, exported, possessed, sold, or purchased or any combination in its place of origin. Exotic wildlife includes those wildlife species which are non-migratory and are not native or indigenous to Kansas, or do not presently exist in Kansas as an established wild population. However, any person possessing a mountain lion, wolf, black bear, or grizzly bear must obtain a license or a permit. KAN. ADMIN. REGS. 115-20-3 and 115-20-4
Kentucky N A person may possess an exotic animal without obtaining a license. Exotic animals are terrestrial wildlife species which have never existed in the wild in Kentucky or been extirpated from the state and could not be reasonably expected to survive in the wild if introduced. 301 KY. ADMIN. REGS. 2:082
Louisiana N No person may possess any of the following species or its subspecies of live wild quadrupeds, domesticated or otherwise: cougar or mountain lion; black bear; grizzly bear; polar bear; red wolf; gray wolf; and wolf-dog hybrids. However, any native animals to North America, except wolves and cougars, may be kept with a permit. And any non-native animals to North America, such as lions, tigers, non-human primates, etc, may be possessed without a permit. LA. ADMIN. CODE tit. 76, 115
Maine L A person may possess a wild animal after obtaining a permit. ME. REV. STAT. ANN. tit. 12 7235-A
Maryland B* A person may not import as a household "pet" any live: fox, skunk, raccoon, bear, alligator, crocodile, member of the cat family other than domestic cat, or any poisonous snakes in the family groups of Hydrophidae, Elapidae, Viperidae, or Crotolidae. In addition, a person may not harbor within Maryland any live raccoons, skunks, foxes, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, or any other mammalian wildlife species, or hybrids, for which there is no USDA certified vaccine against rabies, without first obtaining a permit. However, there are no state requirements for private possession of non-human primates. MD. CODE ANN., NAT. RES. 70D and MD. REGS. CODE tit. 08.03.09, 03
Massachusetts B No person may possess as a "pet" a wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile or amphibian unless the animal was owned prior to June 30, 1995. A wild bird, mammal, fish, reptile or amphibian is defined as any undomesticated animal that is not the product of hybridization with a domestic form and not otherwise contained in the exemption list. MASS. REGS. CODE tit. 321, 2.12 and 9.01; and MASS. GEN. LAWS ANN. ch. 131, 77A
Michigan B* & N No person may possess as a "pet" any member of the Felidae family (large cats), including their hybrids, any bear species, and any wolf-hybrid unless the animal was possessed prior to July 7, 2000. A prior entry permit must be obtained from the director for all other wild animal or exotic animal species not listed above or regulated by the fish and wildlife service of the United States Department of Interior or the Department of Natural Resources of this state. Prior to an exotic animal entering the state the Department of Natural Resources may require the possessor to have the animal examined by an accredited veterinarian to determine the health status, proper housing, husbandry and confinement standards are being met. MICH. COMP. LAWS 287.731, MICH. COMP. LAWS 287.1001-1023, MICH. COMP. LAWS 287.1101-1123
Minnesota B* It is unlawful for a person to possess a regulated animal. A regulated animal is defined as all members of the felidae family (except domestic cats); all bears; and all non-human primates. A person who possesses a regulated animal on the effective date of the law, January 1, 2005, has 90 days to register the animal with the local animal control authority. Persons possessing a registered regulated animal may replace the regulated animal if he/she dies, but may replace he/she only once. MINN. STAT. 346.15584D.04, 84D.05, 84D.06, and 84D.07; Minn. R. 6216.0250, 6216.0260, 6216.0265, and 6216.0270; (additional citations for newly enacted law soon)
Mississippi L It is unlawful for a person to import or possess any wild animal classified inherently dangerous by law or regulation unless that person holds a permit or is exempted from holding a permit. Inherently dangerous animals include, but are not limited to the following animals: orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas, macaques, mandrills, baboons, wolves, bears, hyenas, lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, elephants, etc. However, there are no state requirements for private possession of small non-domesticated felines such as ocelots, servals, etc. MISS. CODE ANN. 49-8-5 and 49-8-7
Missouri N A person may not keep a lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, Canada lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, hyena, wolf, coyote, or any deadly dangerous, or poisonous reptile unless such person has registered the animal with the local law enforcement agency in the county in which the animal is kept. MO. REV. STAT. 578.023
Montana L & N A person may not operate a wild animal menagerie without obtaining a permit. A "wild animal menagerie" means any place where one or more bears or large cats, including cougars, lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, pumas, cheetahs, ocelots, and hybrids of those large cats are kept in captivity for use other than public exhibition. All other exotic animals entering the state, such as reptiles, monkeys, etc., must be accompanied by a one-time entry permit and an official health certificate. MONT. CODE ANN. 87-4-801, 87-4-803, and 87-4-804; MONT. ADMIN. R. 32.3.202
Nebraska B* It is unlawful for persons to possess any wolf, skunk, or any member of the Felidae (cats, except domesticated) and Ursidae (bear) families unless the animal was in possession prior to March 1, 1986. However, there are no state requirements for non-human primates and reptiles. NEB. REV. STAT. 37-477
Nevada N Specific animals, set forth in NEV. ADMIN. CODE ch. 503, 110 are prohibited from private ownership except if the animal was in possession prior to February 28, 1994. Examples of animals listed under 110 are the following: alligators, crocodiles, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, etc. However, other exotic animals may be possessed without a permit or license. Examples of these exotic animals are: monkeys and other Primates, Marsupials, elephants, felines, wolves, etc. NEV. ADMIN. CODE ch. 503, 110; ch. 503, 140; ch. 504, 488.
New Hampshire B It is unlawful for persons to possess exotic animals, such as felines, bears, wolves, poisonous reptiles, and non-human primates, unless they are exhibitors. However, there are certain noncontrolled animals that may be privately possessed within the state without a license. Noncontrolled animals include, but are not limited to: sugar gliders, non-venomous reptiles, ferrets, etc. N.H. REV. STATE ANN. 207:14 and N.H. CODE ADMIN. R Fis 802.01, 804.01, 804.02, 804.03, 804.04, 804.05, Table 800.02
New Jersey B It is unlawful for persons to possess a potentially dangerous species as a "pet." Potentially dangerous species include the following orders: Primates; Carnivora (nondomestic dogs and cats, bears); Saura (venomous gila monsters); Serpentes (venomous coral snakes, cobras, vipers, pit vipers); Crocodilia (alligators, crocodiles, gavials); Psittaciformes (ring-necked and monk parakeets); and Rodentia (prairie dogs, ground squirrels). Zoos and other exhibitors may possess these animals upon showing that specific criteria have been met, such as extensive experience in handling and caring for the animal. N.J. ADMIN. CODE tit. 7, 25-4.8 and 25-4.9
New Mexico B It is unlawful for a person to possess non-domesticated felines, primates, crocodiles, alligators, and wolves. Policy Statement by the Department of Game & Fish.
New York L No person may keep wildlife unless they have received a permit. Wildlife includes, but is not limited to, the following animals: wolves, wolfdogs, coyotes, coydogs, foxes, skunks, venomous reptiles or raccoons, endangered species, leopards, tigers, lions, cheetahs, ocelots, margays, alligators, etc. N.Y. ENVTL. CONSERV. 11-0511, 11-0536, and 11-0917; N.Y. AGRIC. & MKTS. 370.
North Carolina N A county or city may by ordinance regulate, restrict, or prohibit the possession of dangerous animals. In addition, an entry permit from the State Veterinarian is required before importing into the state a skunk, fox, raccoon, ringtail, bobcat, North and South American felines, coyote marten, and brushtail possum. N.C. SESS. LAWS 153A-131 and 160A-187; N.C. ADMIN. CODE tit. 2, r. 52B.0212
North Dakota L Category 3, 4, or 5 of nontraditional livestock may be possessed in the state after obtaining an import permit; a nontraditional livestock license; a certificate from a veterinarian. Category 4 is those species that are considered inherently dangerous, including bears, wolves, wolf hybrids, primates, all non-domesticated cats except Canadian lynx, and bobcat. N.D. ADMIN. CODE 48-12-01-02 and 48-12-01-03
Ohio N No person may bring into the state a non-domestic animal unless the possessor: obtains an entry permit; health certificate certifying the animal is free of infectious diseases; and a certificate of veterinary inspection. Persons in the state possessing non-domestic animals do not need to obtain a permit. OHIO ADMIN. CODE 901: 1-17-12
Oklahoma L No person may possess or raise wildlife for commercial purposes without having first obtained a permit. Regardless to whether the possession is actually for "commercial purposes," all persons owning these animals as "pets" must obtain this particular permit. OKLA. STAT. Tit. 29, 4-107
Oregon L No person may keep an exotic animal unless, before acquiring the animal, the person possesses, or has applied for and not been refused or have been revoked or suspended, a valid permit from the State Department of Agriculture. Exotic animal is defined as any lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, ocelot, monkey, ape, gorilla, or other non-human primate, wolf or canine not indigenous to Oregon, and bear (except black bear). OR. REV. STAT. 609.305 and 609.319
Pennsylvania L No person may keep exotic wildlife without first receiving a permit from the wildlife commission. Exotic wildlife includes, but is not limited to all bears, coyotes, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars, wolves, and any crossbreed of these animals, which have similar characteristics in appearance or features. However, there are no state requirements for a person possessing non-human primates and reptiles. 34 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. 2961 and 2963
Rhode Island L No person may possess, without first obtaining a permit from the department, animals of the following orders, families, and genera: Primates, Carnivores, Amphibia, Reptilia, Canidae, and Insecta. All person obtaining a permit must demonstrate they have both adequate facilities, and adequate knowledge of animal health and husbandry to ensure both public safety and health. R.I. GEN. LAWS 4-18-3; 1994 R.I. PUB. LAWS 12 020 030
South Carolina N It is unlawful to possess wolves or coyotes within the state. It is also unlawful to possess wildlife indigenous to the state without a permit. Specifically, one can not possess members of the Cervidae, Suidae, Tayassuidae (peccaries), Bovidae (bison, mountain goat, mountain sheep), nor can they possess coyotes, bears, turkeys, and furbearers. However, there are no state laws governing the possession of non-domesticated felines, primates, reptiles, and other wildlife not listed above. S.C. CODE REGS. 50-11-1765 and 50-16-20
South Dakota L A permit is required to possess any non-domestic mammal, or any hybrids thereof of the following orders: Carnivora (Felidae -- non-domestic, Canidae -- non-domestic, Ursidae -- bears, Mustelidae, and Hyaenidae); Artiodactyla (hoofed animals); Perissodactyla (Tapiridae and Rhinocerotidae). In addition, all animals (including those listed above and non-human primates and reptiles) must be examined by a veterinarian and be free of any contagious, infectious, epidemic, or communicable disease. No person may possess non-domestic pigs or raccoon dogs. S.D. ADMIN. R. 12:68:18:03 and 12:68:18:03.01; and S.D. CODIFIED LAWS ANN. 40-14-2
Tennessee B It is unlawful for persons to possess Class I wildlife unless they were in possession of the animal(s) prior to June 25, 1991. Class I wildlife includes the following orders: Primates (gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons, siamangs, mandrills, drills, baboons, Gelada baboons only); Carnivores (all wolves, all bears, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, cougars); Proboscidia (all elephants); Perissodactyla (all rhinoceroses); Artiodactyla (all hippos and African buffalos); Crocodylia (crocodiles and alligators); Serpentes (all poisonous snakes); and Amphibians (all poisonous species). However, the state does not regulate private possession of species not listed above, such as monkeys and small non domesticated cats (ocelots, servals, etc.). TENN. CODE ANN 70-4-401, 70-4-403, and 70-4-404
Texas L No person may possess a dangerous wild animal without first obtaining a license (certificate of registration). Dangerous wild animals are defined as lions, tigers, ocelots, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, lynxes, servals, caracals, hyenas, bears, coyotes, jackals, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans, gorillas, or any hybrids of the animals listed. However, there are no requirements for a person possessing all other animal not listed above, such as monkeys, wolves etc. TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. 822.101-116; TEX. LOC. GOV'T CODE ANN. 240.002(a) and 240.0025
Utah B A person may not possess live zoological animals that are classified as prohibited. Prohibited animals include, but are not limited to, the following families: Ursidae (bears), Canidae (all species), Felidae (all species except non-domesticated cats), Mustelidae (all species), Non-human primates, and certain species of reptiles, etc. However, in rare circumstances a person may possess these animals as a "pet" if the person obtains a certificate of registration from the Wildlife Board. Generally, exhibitors and educational and scientific facilities only obtain these registrations. A certificate of registration is not required for non-controlled species which alligators and crocodiles fall under. UTAH ADMIN. R. 657-3-17, R. 657-3-24, R. 657-3-25, and R. 657-3-27
Vermont B It is unlawful for persons to possess exotic animals, such as large felines, bears, wolves, poisonous reptiles, and non-human primates as "pets." Persons may possess exotic animals for exhibition and educational purposes if they obtain a permit. Please note that the state statute says a person may not bring into the state or possess an exotic animal unless they obtain a permit. However, no personal possession permits for "pets" are issued to individuals. VT. STAT. ANN. Tit. 10, 4709
Virginia B* No person may possess nonnative exotic animals that are classed as predatory or undesirable as a "pet." Nonnative exotic animals include, but are not limited to: bears, wolves, coyotes, weasels, badgers, hyenas, all species of non-domesticated cats, alligators, and crocodiles. Persons may possess these animals if they are a licensed exhibitor, i.e. commercial, educational or scientific uses. However, there are no state requirements for a person possessing non-human primates. 4 VAC 15-30-10; 15-30-40
Washington N The state does not require persons possessing exotic animals to obtain a permit. This is governed by city or county regulations. However, the state does require all exotic animals entering the state to obtain a health certificate. WASH. ADMIN. CODE 16-54-030; 16-54-035
West Virginia O The state only regulates native species to the state. A person possessing a native animal in captivity as a "pet" must obtain a permit. However, there are no state laws governing private possession of exotic animals. W. VA. CODE 20-2-51
Wisconsin O There are no state laws governing private possession of exotic animals. N/A
Wyoming B It is unlawful for persons to possess big or trophy game animals. Big game is defined as antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose or mountain goat. Trophy game is defined as black bear, grizzly bear or mountain lion. According to WY Fish and Game, it is unlawful to possess all other exotic animals such as, tigers, lions, primates, wolves, bears, etc. WYO. STAT. 23-1-101 and 23-1-103; WYO. REG. Chapter 10, 5

Legend:

B = Ban on private ownership of exotic animals -- non-domesticated felines, wolves, bears, reptiles, non-human primates

B* = Partial ban on private ownership of exotic animals -- allows ownership of some exotic animals but precludes ownership of the animals listed

L = Requires the "owner" of the exotic animal to obtain a license or permit or to register the animal with state or local authorities to privately possess the animal (excludes states only requiring import permits)

N = The state does not require the "owner" to obtain a license or permit to possess the animal within the state, but may regulate some aspect thereof (i.e. entry permit, veterinary certificate, etc.)

O = No statute or regulation governing this issue

For a color-coded map of states and regulations, click here.

(Revised 08/31/04)

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This page was created on 08/27/04