Legality Of Owning & Selling Exotics

May 21, 2013 by

Legality of Exotic Pets

  • Each state, city, township, or municipality may have their own restrictions on exotic animal ownership.
  • Most exotics, including hedgehogs, are prohibited in Georgia, California, Pennsylvania, and Hawaii.  We suggest that you investigate further the legality of hedgehog ownership if you live in one of these states.
  • Some states such as: Arizona (nearly impossible to obtain a permit), Maine (requires an importation and possession permit),  require a permit to own exotic animals. We suggest that you further investigate the legality of hedgehog ownership if you live in one of these states.  It is always best to check your state’s Department of Agriculture to
  • In Pennsylvania hedgehogs may not be imported into the state, but hedgehogs in the state as of 1992 and their descendants are, at least theoretically, allowed.
  • State laws change so please let us know if the above listing needs to be modified.

Why Are Exotic Pets Illegal?

  • Many exotic animals are illegal in states where they could easily proliferate and damage the natural fauna of the area.
  • Other states regulate all exotics because of the perceived risk to human health.  Many exotic animals and reptiles can be dangerous to humans and instead of banning some species and not others; all exotics are banned across the board.
  • Hedgehogs are banned primarily because they are considered exotic, even though they are not a health or environmental threat.

How to Determine if Exotics are Legal in Your Area

  • Check at the state level through your Department of Fish and Game (or Wildlife), Department of Agriculture, and Department of Natural Resources.
  • You may also consider checking at your city, village, township or municipality levels. New York City, for instance, has banned exotics in all five Boroughs.

Legality of Selling Exotic Pets

  • According to federal regulations, all retail pet stores are required to have a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) license to legally sell hedgehogs.
  • The federal regulations also stipulate that breeders with three or more females are required to have the USDA license.
  • We encourage you to purchase your hedgehog from licensed dealers or breeders. Licensed breeders or dealers are held to a higher standard of care for their animals. They are inspected periodically and unannounced to ensure that they maintain sanitary conditions, provide humane treatment to their animals, keep accurate records, and that a licensed veterinarian is observing it for any medical care needed.

Consequences of Owning Exotic Pets Where They Are Illegal

  • The consequences of owning illegal exotic pets will depend on the agency that has created the law.
  • Most agencies do not have the manpower to monitor individual pet ownership in the privacy of a home environment.
  • Enforcement of exotic laws typically occurs when there is another contributing problem. For instance, if an animal bites someone and authorities discover exotics in their investigation, fines and penalties can be enforced.
  • “Hobby breeders” that do not have a license under the USDA guidelines are forced to either decrease the number of animals on the premises or to become compliant with the USDA guidelines.

Customer Question about PA Hedgehog Ownership:

“Hi there, I just had a quick question about purchasing a hedgehog. I currently reside in PA and I was in the process of purchasing a hedgehog from my one school instructor when he was let go by the company. He told me that it is legal to own a hedgehog in PA as long as it is purchased from a USDA licensed breeder.”

The politically correct answer is that it is illegal to own a hedgehog in PA. If the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PAGC) discovers that you have one they will confiscate and euthanize it.

A few facts to think about:

  1. If you ask several people in the PAGC if they are legal you will likely get several different answers. The enforcement is left up to the individual PAGC officers.
  2. PAGC does not have a proven reason WHY hedgehogs are dangerous or harmful to the environment. However, if you are so inclined to own a lion, tiger, bear, other large carnivore or a non-human primate you CAN get a permit. The exotic animal law originated in PA via the HSUS with the opposite as OH. In OH, there are restrictions of what cannot be owned, but PA restricts the animals that CAN be owned. So, if you live in PA and want to own something that is not on the list, you are out of luck.
  3. There are NO legal breeders of hedgehogs in PA according to the PAGC unless they owned their breeding stock prior to 1992. The USDA is under the Federal govt. and the PAGC is under the state government. The USDA does not regulate, monitor, or enforce state laws. The USDA cannot intervene beyond the scope of the Animal Welfare Act unless directed by the Executive branch of the government. Meaning, USDA licensed breeders are not screened for where they sell hedgehogs but only if the paperwork and documentation of all sales is done properly.
  4. ALL pet stores selling hedgehogs or any other exotic must be USDA licensed according to Federal Laws, however, this is complaint rather than inspection driven enforcement.
  5. There is not hedgehog radar that can detect a hedgehog in your home or vehicle.
  6. Hedgehogs out in public, Facebook posts, etc. will all draw attention to you and your hedgehog and it may not be the attention you want.
  7. If you are reported by anyone, including, a former friend, an animal rights activist that knows you have one etc, it is possible that you could be forced to remove the hedgehog from PA or be fined.
  8. Many PA veterinarians will see and treat hedgehogs. If you live in PA and have a hedgehog that needs or could need veterinary care, it is best to find a vet in advance that can assist you.
  9. To the best of my knowledge, all animals crossing all state lines are required to have a health certificate by a veterinarian. For example, if you buy a dog in another state you are technically required to have a health certificate. Many airlines require a health certificate as well. A copy of the health certificate is sent to the Department of Agriculture in the state or origin and to the Department of Ag in final destination state. Truth be told, the only time health certificates are typically checked is livestock crossing state borders that are not going directly to slaughter or when there is a problem. Hedgehog law enforcement is equal.
  10. The biggest risk to hedgehogs in PA is that there is not a network (or at least a very loose network) of finding hedgehogs a new home when a current owner cannot care for them any longer. Animal shelters are legally not able to adopt them out, newspaper ads are likely to send up red flags, and release or abandonment of any animal is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form.

What it boils down to is that each individual has to make his or her own decision based on his or her comfort level. Do you drive over the speed limit? Do you jaywalk? Do you error on the side of overpayment with your taxes or do you cut corners? What might be acceptable risk to one person may not be acceptable to another.

Resources

Arizona
Game and Fish Department
(602) 942-3000 x 4006

Maine
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
(207) 287-2571 or 289-3651

New Jersey
Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife
(609) 984-0839 or 292-6685

 

Primary Author:  Gail Dick, Millermeade Farms

Contributor:  Laura Unger

 

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