Is it Legal to Own a Pet Sloth in California?

by Ambrosio Rodriguez | Oct 18, 2020 | California Law
Is it Legal to Own a Pet Sloth in California?

Owning exotic pets has become a popular trend over the last few years. Hedgehogs, chimpanzees, and even chinchillas are among peoples’ favorites, and another animal that individuals increasingly like to keep as a pet is the sloth.

Known for being slow-moving, “chill” animals, sloth ownership has been on the rise in several different states around the country. But is owning a sloth legal in California?

It is Illegal to Own a Sloth in California

While states like Nevada and Texas have extremely lenient rules about exotic pet ownership, the Golden State is known for its strict regulations relating to game and wildlife. In fact, after Hawaii, which is probably the strictest state in the nation when it comes to pet ownership, California is a close second.

When you think about it, it makes sense that California, with its crowded cities and fragile habitat, would have strict laws about exotic pets. One animal that is clearly restricted is the sloth.

However, whereas many animals are restricted because of the threat they pose either to the natural wildlife of the state, agriculture, or the public at large, sloths are deemed illegal for another reason: to prevent the depletion of wild populations.

Native to Central America and northern South America, several different types of sloths, including the Maned Sloth and the Pygmy Sloth are endangered species. Owning either species, or any sloth for that matter, in addition to being detrimental to the sloth itself, could potentially hurt sloth populations in their natural habitat.

Penalties for Owning an Exotic Animal in California

If you are caught owning a pet sloth or any other exotic animal that is restricted without the proper permits and documentation, you could face stiff fines and even jail time. Fines can reach as high as $10,000 and in some cases, jail time could also be considered. Depending on a number of factors, you could face up to six months behind bars.

Why Else You Might Not Want to Own a Sloth

There are, however, other reasons why you might not want to buy a baby sloth for sale.

In addition to being illegal in California, because they are wild animals, sloths are unpredictable and can bite people.

They might look soft and cute, and they might move really slowly, but a sloth bite is not unheard of. And because they are illegal, if the sloth you own hurts another individual, you would face both criminal and civil legal consequences.

On the civil side, because of California’s “strict liability” laws, you would automatically be liable for any injuries your pet sloth caused to another person. In addition to facing fines and jail time for illegally owning the sloth, you would be leaving yourself open to costly lawsuits.

Other Pets That Are illegal to Own in California

As noted above, California has some of the strictest laws in the country regarding pet ownership. It also has a few other pets that are illegal to own that might raise more eyebrows than sloths. Those pets include:

  • Monkeys
  • Hedgehogs
  • Ferrets
  • Quaker Parakeets

As with owning a sloth, if you own any of the animals above, or any other animal that is restricted in California, you could face significant fines and even jail time. You might even have to pay the costs to transfer and house the animal in another location. If you find yourself facing criminal charges for violating the state’s laws, don’t hesitate to contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options.

In all reality, these laws are reasonable and are enforced for a reason. Rather than breaking them with the hopes you won’t get caught, it is best if you obey the law and decide not to own a sloth or any other restricted animal. There are enough animals that are legal to own, even in California, that you should be able to find some animal that will make a good pet.