18 Pets You’re Forbidden to Keep in the U.S.

It’s easy to figure out why there are general bans on dangerous animals like lions, tigers, bears, and poisonous snakes. But did you know that Hawaii also has a ban on hamsters? Here are 18 animals you’re not allowed to keep in various states and cities across the US.

Ferrets

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Just like gerbils, ferrets are also prohibited as pets in California and Hawaii. They can be aggressive toward humans and pose the same level of threat to local ecosystems as gerbils. The CDC also reports them to be rabies vectors, posing a threat to you when they aren’t vaccinated.

Kangaroos

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Let’s start with kangaroos, popular Australian natives banned in over 30 states across the US. While some states, like Florida, ban them on the basis of being exotic animals, others put them under a protected class of animals. Even in states that allow you to keep them, you’ll need to meet strict requirements to ensure their safety.

Squirrels

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Keep a squirrel to yourself, and you’ll be breaking the law in 26 states. No matter how cute these tree rodents seem to you, they are still wild animals that are hard to contain and that don’t thrive indoors. They’re generally banned through conservation and exotic animal laws.

African Clawed Frogs

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These natives of sub-Saharan Africa are prohibited as pets in 12 states across the US. Washington’s FWD explains that they harm the native ecosystem when they escape, competing for food, preying on other animals, and releasing pathogens that are dangerous to native fish and amphibians.

Racoon Dogs

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Unlike racoons with more lenient restrictions, racoon dogs are banned as pets everywhere across the US. The key contributing factor is the threat they pose to native wildlife. However, they’re also dangerous to humans, as they harbor tapeworm, rabies, and other deadly pathogens, The Washington Post shares.

Sugar Gliders

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Sugar gliders are adorable pocket animals that you may see commonly held as pets in the US. Nonetheless, avoid keeping them to yourself in states like Alaska, Massachusetts, California, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. While some states place complete bans on them, others impose hefty restrictions on their ownership.

Parakeets

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Quaker parrots, known as parakeets, are illegal in seven states and have ownership restrictions in ten additional states. Alongside concerns about their health in captivity (given that they are social animals), these parrots are also known to destroy buildings and aggressively compete with native species.

Giant African Snail

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Another animal on our list that is banned in all states is the giant African snail (GAS). The USDA shares that it poses a threat to agriculture and human life, feeding on 500 different consumable crops, including peanuts, beans, peas, cucumbers, and lemons.

Bengals

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Bengal cats are banned in many states across the US, primarily due to regulations around hybrid cat breeds. Of course, their wild nature is the biggest factor contributing to their prohibition. However, they are also known to be rabies vectors, making them dangerous to other pets and humans.

Alligator Gars

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Alligator gars are banned as pets for two opposing reasons. In some states, they compete with native predators and also prey on native marine animals, potentially disrupting local ecosystems. While in Florida, they play an important role in keeping their ecosystem healthy; hence, there are conservative bans due to their decreasing numbers.

Skunks

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Spruce Pets reports that skunks are illegal as pets in 32 states in the US. The main concern with them is that they’re vectors of rabies, making them dangerous around other dogs and humans. They also emit a pungent smell that could make you nauseous and be difficult to get off you, so they shouldn’t be desirable anyway.

Monkeys

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With restrictions in 23 states, there’s an almost equal distribution between where you can own a pet monkey and where you can’t. Laws generally protect monkeys from poor treatment in captivity and the public from diseases and monkeys’ aggressive, destructive behavior.

Snowy Owls

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Snowy owls and all other owls native to America are banned as pets under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This has been done to protect them from trophy hunters—so much so that the US FWS says you aren’t even allowed to be in possession of their feathers without a permit.

Gerbils

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The Mongolian gerbil may be a common, desirable pet for children, but it’s banned in two states in the US—California and Hawaii. These two states particularly have local landscapes that are similar to the gerbil’s natural habitat, meaning the rodents will flourish and get out of control.

Freshwater Stingrays

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It’s illegal to own freshwater stingrays in 11 states, including Arkansas, California, Florida, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. These natives of South America are another set of animals that can be invasive and detrimental to local marine life when they’re released into the wild.

Hedgehogs

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Hedgehogs are generally common and acceptable pets almost everywhere across the US. Nonetheless, if you find yourself in California, Georgia, Hawaii, New York City, Omaha (Nebraska), or Washington, D.C., it’s best you steer clear of them to avoid fines. There are also different levels of restrictions on them in other states.

Alligator-Snapping Turtles

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Alligator-snapping turtles are generally protected under conservative laws due to overharvesting for their meat and exotic shells. California goes the extra step to ban all species of snapping turtles, while South Carolina has a general ban on all turtles due to fears of salmonella infection.

Pitbulls

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As surprising as it may sound, pitbulls are also prohibited as pets in places across the US. The catch with them, however, is that bans are not imposed by the federal or state governments. Instead, you may have to deal with prohibitions in large cities like San Francisco (on unneutered pitbulls). NBC Miami also shares that there were total bans on pitbulls in Florida, especially Miami until they were lifted in October 2023.

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