18 Pets That Are Surprisingly Legal in the U.S.

Written By Jill Taylor

It can be hard to believe that some of the following animals are legal to have in the U.S. or to understand why you’d want a dangerous, wild pet in your house! Here are 18 legal pets in the U.S. that may be a surprise to you!

Milk Snake

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Milk snakes are pets because of how easy they are to handle. For example, Everything Reptiles writes, “Milk snakes are great beginner pet snakes because they are relatively docile and easy to take care of. Very quickly, they become accustomed to gentle handling.”

Red Fox

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It’s legal to own a red fox, but only in a certain number of states. These states include Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. However, in Virginia, you aren’t allowed to breed or sell the red fox, as there’s an increased risk of rabies. You may also need a permit to legally own this type of fox.


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Very surprisingly, an elephant is legal to own in Nevada. It’s the only state where this is allowed. An elephant would require a very large amount of space and specialized care, so it may not be suitable to own an elephant in a residential area, and it’s perhaps an animal that’s best visited at the zoo.


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Zebras are closely related to horses, which is most likely why they’re allowed as pets. However, they aren’t domesticated animals. A person can have a zebra as a pet in North Dakota and Oklahoma without needing a permit. They’re social animals but they aren’t easily tamed and require a lot of space.


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This large, flightless bird is legal to own in states such as Colorado and Florida. An ostrich needs a lot of room and always needs to be in an outdoor setting. Even though they’re legal to own in many states, it’s best to check if a permit is needed first.

Sugar Glider

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Sugar gliders are legal in all states except California. These small animals are loved by many people because they’re so cute and fluffy, but they require a lot of care. Because they need a specialized environment, sugar gliders can be hard to manage.

Bearded Dragon

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The Bearded dragon is native to Australia but it’s become a popular pet to have in the U.S. This is because they’re low maintenance, making them perfect for people with busy lifestyles. They’re legal in most states but the initial setup can be expensive.

Asian Leopard Cat

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While an Asian Leopard cat can be legally owned as a pet, a permit is commonly required along with specific documentation. This animal is a wild cat from Asia and needs a lot of socialization. They can be challenging to own and are prone to stress, which doesn’t make them a great option if you live in a busy household.


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Tuko writes, “The llama is an affectionate, clean and loyal breed and one of the best exotic animals to keep because of their low-maintenance nature.” The llama is a legal pet in states such as California and Colorado. They’re loved by owners for being such easy pets, but it should be noted they require lots of outdoor space.

Boa Constrictor

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Even though the boa constrictor is a very large snake, it isn’t venomous, which is why some states allow it as a pet. Because of its size, it requires a custom enclosure with tropical conditions. It’s generally seen as being a gentle snake, but it’s not for everyone.


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It’s legal to own a cougar in Nevada, Alabama, and Wisconsin. As the cougar is a wild cat, it can be a risky pet to take on and, like other cats, requires a lot of socialization. Most states don’t see them as being suitable for pets as they require specialized training.


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Petpedia tells us, “You’ll be able to get a bear with a special permit in Nevada, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina.” In some cases, bears are even known to be affectionate toward their owners. However, they need a lot of care and there’s still a chance they could harm you.


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Monkeys are legal pets in many states, but it is important that they get lots of care and attention. This is because they’re incredibly intelligent and sociable animals, but this can also mean they have behavior issues. Monkeys need proper training and a specialized diet.


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It is legal to own an ananconda in some states, such as Vermont, as long as you have a permit. Anacondas are the largest snake in the world and this can make them incredibly difficult to have as a pet. They require an extremely large enclosure and tropical conditions.


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These large and hairy spiders have a docile temperament and that’s why they’re loved as pets in America. They’re legal in many states, although some will require a permit. A tarantula will need a secure environment so that they don’t escape, and they will also need a warm temperature in their enclosure.


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Kinkajous are legal in many states, but a permit might be needed. This is supported by The Spruce Pets, which writes, “Many counties and cities require permits to keep a kinkajou. Rental properties or homeowners’ associations often have restrictions for exotic pets as well.”


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It’s only in the state of Wyoming that a skunk can be kept as a pet. They’re well known for their foul odors, but they can make great pets if they’re properly cared for. You may also need or want to de-scent your pet skunk before allowing it into the house.


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Bushbabys are only legal to own as pets in Delaware and Florida, but a person must have a permit. These animals are native to Africa and have a similar resemblance to a lemur. They’re also nocturnal, which may not make them the most exciting pet to own.

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