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7 Illegal Pets in California

Posted in Criminal Defense on July 26, 2019

Common domestic pets like cats and fish are legal to own in almost any place and under almost any circumstances. Most kinds of dogs are legal as well. However, dog owners must be aware of California’s rather strict animal cruelty rules, as well as any applicable state or local restriant laws (e.g. leash laws). Furthermore, property owners generally have an absolute right to prohibit all non-service animals.

Many pets are illegal in California, even though they are legal in other states. Authorities consider the following animals an inherent threat to native wildlife or simply too wild to domesticate.

An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you avoid exotic pet penalties like a stiff fine, up to six months in jail, and the removal and possible euthanization of the animal.

Hedgehog | Illegal Pets in California


Who knew that Justin Bieber’s cute and cuddly Mally was an illegal pet. Authorities consider all primates to be an inherent threat to both wildlife and people. However, monkeys are not 100 percent illegal. Special permits are available for research or performance animals.


These animals, which belong to the same family as minks and otters, are legal to own almost everywhere, except California and Hawaii. The Fish and Wildlife Department claims ferrets are dangerous predators if they escape into the wild. Pet enthusiasts sharply disagree, but they’ve been unable to change the state’s mind on this issue.


Much like ferrets, hedgehogs are small, cute, and according to the Fish and Wildlife Department, dangerous if let loose. Additionally, hedgehogs have quills which could break the skin. They also transmit salmonella, ringworm, and some other serious diseases.


This inclusion surprises a lot of people, especially since hamsters, mice, and rats are all legal and they are all basically the same animal. But gerbils are desert rodents. If they escape, they could form colonies which could threaten crops or fragile native plants. That sounds like a pretty far-fetched scenario, but that’s the government’s story, and they are sticking to it.


Large cats are legal to own in many places, including Nevada and other states with lax animal rights laws. But they are illegal in California. So, if you relocate from the east side of Lake Tahoe to the west side, you may have to make some adjustments in this area.

Raccoons, Squirrels, Opossums and Skunks

We put all four of these animals together because they are all basically wild rodents. But many of these critters are used to humans and therefore rather domesticated. So, it’s sometimes tempting to take one home. However, the Fish and Wildlife Department believes, probably with good cause, that these pets are just too dangerous to keep. They have sharp teeth and claws. Furthermore, they often transmit diseases, like rabies. 


As far as the State of California is concerned, an alligator is a something like a raccoon that lives near water. Alligators are cute and (somewhat) cuddly when they are tiny babies. But these tiny babies quickly grow up. At that point, even if the owner has a lot of acres in a rural area, they are unmanageable and quite ferocious. Furthermore, by that time, they are no longer cute and cuddly. So, these animals are just too dangerous to domesticate.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney

Our legal team is here to make your life a bit easier. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Riverside, contact Graham Donath Law Offices, APC. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.