Exotic Pet Laws of Alabama

Piranha in an aquarium
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While cats, dogs and gerbils make great pets, some people may want something a little different in a domestic companion. But can people in Alabama own more unusual and exotic pets? It depends. Federal law allows states to make their own regulations regarding animals as pets, with some exceptions.

Alabama has some of the least restrictive and specific laws about pet ownership of all the states. But before Alabamans go looking for their next pet, it's important to understand what kinds of animals are allowed.

Explicitly Prohibited Animals in Alabama

Alabama state law specifically prohibits ownership of several types of animals, including:

  • All genus Clarias fish, including walking catfish.
  • Fish of the genus Serrasalmus.
  • Piranha.
  • Any member of the genus Mylopharyngodon, including Black Carp.
  • Any type of mud carp.
  • Snakehead fish of any variety.
  • Types of sturgeon that are not native to Alabama.
  • Chinese perch.
  • Blueback herring.
  • Fish rudd and roach, and any hybrid of these.
  • Mongoose of any kind.
  • Wild rabbit or hare, including jack rabbit.
  • Venomous reptiles not native to Alabama.
  • Giant African Snail.
  • Possum.
  • Alligator.

It's illegal for anyone in Alabama to sell, list for sale, import or own any of the animals on this list. In the case of venomous reptiles, it is also illegal to release these animals into the wild. Some animals are banned in certain circumstances, but not others.

Animals Banned Under Certain Conditions

Alabama allows people to keep certain animals as pets only if the specific animal was bred and born in the state. Alabamans cannot import any of these pets:

  • Fox. 
  • Raccoon.
  • Skunk.
  • Wild rodents.
  • Wild turkey.
  • Coyote.
  • Black bear.
  • Mountain lion.
  • Types of Cervidae (such as moose and deer).
  • Bobcat.
  • Pronghorn antelope.
  • Pig.
  • Peccaries.
  • Some types of bovidae. 
  • Nutria (aquatic rodents).

Alabama also bans people from releasing any species of turkey or nutria into the wild. In the case of deer, it is acceptable for these animals to be on a person's property, so long as they remain wild. The deer should not be subject to domestication practices.

Animals Alabamans Can Keep

Alabama joins six other states in allowing all other pets not explicitly banned in the state's laws. Residents of Alabama, Nevada, Wisconsin, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Ohio can legally own a pet if it is not banned in their state. However, people who own unusual pets must be sure they meet the federal government's standards on pet ownership.

Federal Law and Exotic Pets

While the federal government allows states to set most laws about exotic pet ownership, some regulations apply to all states. For example, the Endangered Species Act prohibits people in the United States from keeping any animal on the endangered species list as a pet.

The law also prevents people from selling, delivering, importing, transporting or exporting any endangered animal. The first time someone is found to have kept an endangered animal as a pet, the person may have to pay a fine of up to $3,500. A third violation can cost a person up to $13,000.

The federal Captive Wildlife Safety Act affects what animals Alabamans can keep as pets. Under this act, it is illegal to sell wild cats across state lines. Species covered by this law include:

  • Lion.
  • Cougars.
  • Tigers.
  • Cheetah.
  • Leopards.
  • Jaguars.

The penalty for violating this law can be up to five years in prison and/or a fine of $500,000. However, the law only applies to big cats that are transported from other states into Alabama.

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