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5 Types of Pets That Are Illegal in California

5 Types of Pets That Are Illegal in California

California has some of the strictest laws in the nation when it comes to exotic pets. While the Golden State is home to nearly 40 million domestic cats and dogs, there are a number of animals that are banned from being kept as pets. Here’s an overview of 5 types of pets that are illegal in California.

1. Big Cats

Lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, mountain lions, and other big cat species are not allowed to be kept as pets in California. In fact, it’s been illegal to possess big cats in the state since 1963 under Fish and Game Code Section 2116.The law makes an exception for facilities like zoos and research institutions that get permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. But private citizens face misdemeanor charges for owning a big cat, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.This statewide ban was passed to protect public safety after some high-profile mauling incidents involving captive lions and tigers. Even if they’re raised by humans, big cats still have powerful natural instincts to stalk, pounce, and bite. They require large, secure enclosures and expert handling that the average person can’t provide.

2. Primates

Monkeys, apes, lemurs, and other non-human primate species are restricted in California. It’s been illegal to have any contact with great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans) since the early 2000s under Penal Code Section 671.For other primates like capuchin monkeys or lemurs, you need a permit under Fish and Game Code Section 2150. This involves passing a background check, paying fees, and keeping the animal in sanitary conditions. Failing to get a permit can lead to the primate being confiscated and misdemeanor charges.Primates are highly intelligent, social animals that suffer in isolation. They can spread diseases to humans that include herpes B virus, tuberculosis, and salmonella. Even small monkeys have powerful teeth and claws capable of inflicting serious injuries.

3. Venomous Reptiles

It’s illegal for private citizens to keep venomous snakes, lizards, and spiders as pets in California. This includes rattlesnakes, cobras, Gila monsters, beaded lizards, and many others.Fish and Game Code Section 671 prohibits owning “any venomous reptile.” You could face misdemeanor charges and have the animal seized if caught with one. Zoos, research labs, and other facilities may get permits, but members of the public cannot legally keep venomous herps even with experience.This protects people from potentially deadly snake and spider bites. Venomous reptiles require very secure caging to prevent escapes. California has several native rattlesnake species that already pose risks to homeowners, so adding exotic venomous species was deemed too dangerous.

4. Wolf Dogs

Wolf dog hybrids are controversial animals that are restricted in many states. They are produced by breeding domestic dogs with gray wolves, resulting in an animal that’s a mix of wild wolf and domestic dog.California prohibits owning or breeding wolf dogs under Fish and Game Code Section 2118. Violations are a misdemeanor offense. Due to concerns about public safety and impacts on native wildlife, wolf dogs are considered restricted animals rather than conventional pets.Even low-content wolf dog hybrids retain strong prey drives, territorial instincts, and other behaviors that make wolves unsuitable pets. Wolf dogs have been involved in some fatal dog attack cases nationwide. California determined it was too risky to allow the general public to own them.

5. Wild or Exotic Ungulates

Ungulates are hoofed mammals like cattle, sheep, antelopes, camels, and pigs. California has strict regulations on possessing wild or exotic ungulate species.It’s illegal for anyone who isn’t an approved facility like a zoo to import, transport, or possess wild pigs like Eurasian or Russian boars under Fish and Game Code Section 2118.2. Feral pigs already cause extensive damage in California, so adding more was banned.Other wild ungulates like antelope are restricted under Fish and Game Code Section 2150. You must get a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to legally own these animals. Exotic ungulates could spread diseases to livestock or escape and damage ecosystems.

Why Are These Pets Restricted?

California’s exotic pet laws aim to protect public health and safety. Animals like big cats, primates, and venomous reptiles have special needs in terms of handling, caging, and veterinary care. Maintaining wild instincts, they can be unpredictable and dangerous, especially in inexperienced hands.There are also concerns about impacts to native wildlife. Some exotics could escape and threaten endangered species or introduce new diseases. California has a high diversity of native plants and animals that lawmakers want to protect from potentially invasive exotics.While these animals make intriguing pets, California has determined the risks outweigh the benefits for private ownership. Zoos and other facilities can own them, but members of the public looking for legal exotic pets will have to pick options like fennec foxes, kinkajous, and non-venomous reptiles.


California Department of Fish and Wildlife Overview of Restricted Species LawsAVMA Overview of State Exotic Pet LawsBorn Free USA Summary of Exotic Pet Laws By State


California Fish and Wildlife Video on Dangers of Keeping Wild Animals as PetsVice News Video About Exotic Pet Ownership Laws

Additional Articles:

Exotic Pets Still a Struggle for States (Pew Trusts)The Dangerous Legal Implications of Owning Wild Animals (Pacific Standard)US Exotic Pet Trade Requires Reform (Born Free USA)So in summary, California has banned the private ownership of various exotic animal species like big cats, monkeys, and venomous reptiles due to public safety concerns and potential impacts on native wildlife. Only facilities like zoos can get permits to own them, while members of the public are limited to less dangerous pets. But the exotic pet debate continues as some argue for more flexible laws.

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