Five Popular Animals That are Illegal in California

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Aug 29, 2020 | California Law
Five Popular Animals That are Illegal in California

Every state has its quirky laws that, at their best make for good trivia, and at their worst can be a real headache for residents. The same is true for California. The Golden State has some very strict laws on the books about which pets are permissible to own and keep.

To be sure, the state has its reasons for keeping some very popular pets out of the state. For one, some of the animals on this list, if they escaped into the wild, could cause serious damage to the state’s native wildlife. In other cases, some animals are off-limits because of the threat they pose to public safety. Either way, there is at least some method to the madness.

Indeed, while not every pet under the sun is found on the list, there are some curious creatures that have been banned. If you are an exotic pet enthusiast, or if you just moved from a state with lax pet laws, now is a good time to acquaint yourself with which animals are legal in California and which are not. To help you get started, here are five popular animals that are illegal in California.

Monkeys

While monkeys are allowed as pets in neighboring Arizona and Nevada (with a license in the former), they are illegal to keep as pets in California. As is the case with most of the banned-animals list, the reason monkeys are a no go is because of the damage they can do to Californian wildlife and agriculture.

Hedgehogs

One of the many head-scratchers on the list is hedgehogs. While these cute little quill-balls can theoretically puncture your skin and can definitely spread some diseases, neither is the real reason they are banned. Like every other animal in the Order Insectivora (including shares and moles), they are banned because of the damage they can cause to wildlife if they escape.

Ferrets

Ferrets are arguably the most popular pet that is forbidden in California. While they are legal in just about every other state in the country, so far they have been unable to find a warm welcome in the Golden State. If you are wondering why these super-cute critters with long necks aren’t allowed, you guessed it, it’s because of the threat they pose to natural wildlife if they escape.

Chinese Hamsters

Even though Chinese Hamsters make great starter pets, you’ll have to teach your kids the responsibility that comes with pet ownership with some other animal (or at least a different breed of hamster).

While the underlying reason that Chinese Hamsters are banned is the same—harm they could cause to wildlife—it’s because they like California’s climate that they pose such a threat. The idea is that escaped Chinese Hamsters could potentially set up colonies that could even damage crops.

Quaker Parakeets

An exotic bird species on the list is the Quaker Parakeet. Because these parakeets could potentially escape, establish a flock, and disrupt local ecosystems, they have been banned in California and a few other states as well.

Animals That are Legal

Don’t let the list above get you down. Even though you can’t have a monkey or ferret, there are still plenty of animals you can keep as pets in California. Dogs and cats are the obvious choices, but Zebras, a variety of lizards and snakes, and even toucans are all animals that are legal in California.

Penalty for Keep an Illegal Animal

In addition to knowing which animals you can and cannot keep as pets in California, it is also helpful to know what the penalties are if you are caught in possession of an animal that is banned by the state.

While maximum penalties are rarely enforced, they include a fine of anywhere from $500-$10,000. You could also be forced to pay the cost to remove and store the animal.

On the criminal side of things, illegal possession of an exotic or banned animal is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

What is most likely to happen though, is that the animal will be taken from you and reintroduced to the wild or even put down.

With so many animals legal in the state, and with the potential for fines and a legal headache if you do keep an illegal animal, it’s best to follow the law and stay away from pets that have been banned. It works out best for you, the state, and in many cases, the animal too.