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Born Free USA's Expertise: A Resource for Legislators

Exotic "Pets"

Across the country, thousands of wild animals such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, alligators, and venomous snakes, as well as monkeys and other nonhuman primates, are kept captive as "pets." By their very nature, these animals are wild and inherently dangerous; as such, they do not adjust well to a captive environment and are incapable of being "domesticated" and/or tamed. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have all opposed the private possession of certain exotic animals.

State governments have taken the lead in regulating the sale, possession, and use of captive wild and exotic animals in the United States. Current laws vary from state to state as to the type of regulation imposed, which can take the form of a prohibition, a license requirement, or no regulation at all. In addition, laws vary as to the specific animals regulated. Currently, thirty-seven states have some form of law governing the issue of exotic "pets."

Born Free USA has introduced exotic "pet" legislation in Arkansas, Oregon, North Carolina, Washington, and other states, as well as in numerous cities and counties. We also have worked with numerous state agencies to improve the regulations governing this issue. In 2005, we successfully assisted Arkansas and Kentucky in passing exotic "pet" prohibitions, and Washington state in 2007. We have summarized all the state laws governing the private possession of exotic animals as well as crafted model legislation that can be used in your state.

Additional Issues

We also have expertise in a variety of other issues that may be of concern in your state. We would be happy to assist you with legislation in any of the following areas:

  • Regulating roadside zoos and menageries
  • Other animal-related issues

Please contact our Legal and Government Affairs Department by emailing legislation@bornfreeusa.org.