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It's Legal to Have These Exotic Pets in the U.S.
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It's Legal to Have These Exotic Pets in the U.S.

Critter Culture Staff
Updated Jun 13, 2022

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Exotic animals have long been an object of fascination for eccentrics and pet lovers alike. From Audrey Hepburn's deer, through Michael Jackson's chimp, to Miley Cyrus' pet pig, people have loved caring for unusual animals for a really long time. And let's not forget the great Salvador Dali and his ocelot, who was probably the most talked-about exotic pet ever—looking to join the ranks of exotic pet owners? Then all you need to do now is get inspired to find the best pet for you.

Keep in mind that laws vary from state to state. For instance, Alabama, Nevada, and North Carolina have no restrictions on exotic animals. Fourteen states, including Texas, Arizona, and Montana, require you to obtain a license and pay a fee, while 13 states only ban specific exotic animals. The remaining 20 states, including New York, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah, have a comprehensive ban on the ownership of most unusual pets.

1

Anteater

Closeup of Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla) walking on grass Musat / Getty Images

While many exotic animals have come closer to being mainstream, anteaters still make for a truly unique pet. Anteaters are native to the South American rainforests, so they've developed a nocturnal schedule to deal with the climate. If you're a night owl yourself, this could be the perfect animal to keep you company while the rest of the world is asleep.

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2

Capybara

Little girl touching capybara Hakase_ / Getty Images

Think of capybaras as guinea pigs’ more exotic cousin. They love cuddles and affection, and once you gain their trust, they will love interacting with you. These adorable rodents make excellent pets, as long as you can provide them with the living conditions they need. They need plenty of space and a body of water to wash and hydrate their skin in. Also, you’re better off adopting at least two capybaras as they don't enjoy solitude all that much.

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3

Burmese python

Man with large Burmese python at home. ajr_images / Getty Image

Now, this may not be the first choice of pet for the faint-hearted, but snake enthusiasts tend to love them. Burmese Pythons are docile and have a pleasant disposition, making them a great first choice for first-time snake owners. The thing to consider here is their size — they can grow over 20 feet long and over 250 pounds in weight. If you’re thinking of getting one, make sure you’ve got ample space to accommodate them.

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4

Hermit crab

Cropped Image Of Hand Holding Hermit Crab Maurizio Cantarella / EyeEm / Getty Images

Although they can seem like a bit of an unusual choice, hermit crabs make for great family pets. They're relatively easy to care for, and you can have lots of fun observing them. Hermit crabs are nocturnal and sleep for most of the day, so try to get a few hermit crabs to keep each other company while you’re asleep.

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5

Tarantula

Woman holding striped knee tarantula at home Liudmila Chernetska / Getty Images

Are you looking for a compelling animal to take care of, but you’re not too into cuddling and socializing with them? A pet tarantula might be the way to go for you. They’re not very active unless they’re hunting their prey, and they’re quite docile. You just need to do some general maintenance every now and then. You can simply relax, sit back, and enjoy hanging out with them the rest of the time.

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6

Chinchilla

white chinchilla with big ears Christian Buch / Getty Images

Although they’ve been growing in popularity, chinchillas are still an exciting choice for rodent fans. They’re a joy to take care of because of their adorably shy temperaments. Also, unlike many other rodents, they’re clean and don’t smell. Be careful, though — these little critters are surprisingly athletic. They can jump up to 6 feet high and have been known to leap on top of wardrobes and refrigerators randomly!

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7

Hedgehog

Woman and her hedgehog urbazon / Getty Images

Don’t be fooled by their prickly exterior — hedgehogs are known for their adorable temperaments. These little cuties have a sensitive nature that they express using their quills. For instance, hedgehogs keep their quills flat when they’re calm, and raise them when they’re uncertain, and get them very spiky when they’re scared. Sounds fun? This might very well be the pet for you!

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8

Bearded dragon

Bearded dragon on the wooden table Kerkez / Getty Images

Unfortunately, we’re not talking fairytale creatures here — the bearded dragon is a lizard species native to Australia. They’re easy to tame, sociable and docile, so they make for a wonderful first pet for reptile enthusiasts. With time, your bearded dragon might come to enjoy standing on your shoulders, exploring your home, and even going for a walk on a leash.

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9

Camel

camel Mohamed Rageh / EyeEm / Getty Images

Now that’s a unique pet — there certainly aren't many pet camels around, so yours will definitely draw a lot of attention. Surprisingly, they’re legal to keep in many states, as long as you have enough land for them to live comfortably. Camels are loving and trustworthy by temperament, and they’re fairly easy to take care of. Fun fact: camels have been domesticated for a very long time — almost as long as dogs!

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10

Iguana

Cropped Hand Of Man Feeding Iguana Fran Goucher / EyeEm / Getty Images

Iguanas are a lot of fun, as long as you know what to expect! They might be too fearful to approach you at first. However, they become more docile as they learn to trust you. You need to pick your iguana up every day to get used to human contact. Once tamed, iguanas enjoy playing with and even climbing up their owners!

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