State Laws for Keeping Exotic Cats
2016 Stats: 5 states have no laws on keeping dangerous wild animals as pets: Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin. 21 states ban all dangerous exotic pets, while the rest allow certain species or require permits.
Find out what your state laws are regarding the keeping of exotic cats from bobcats to tigers. Select the state of your choice below for a synopsis of the law or click HERE to get the full 231 page Adobe PDF version for all states. The WildCat Conservation Legal Aid Society lists all existing laws and pending laws HERE If clicking on the state doesn’t take you to the state, try scrolling down the page to the information.
The Library of Congress offers this guide to global laws regarding the private possession of exotic cats.
B = Ban on private ownership of big cats (20 states)
B* = Partial ban on private ownership of exotic animals — allows ownership of some exotic animals but precludes ownership of the animals listed (11 states)
L = Requires the “owner” of the exotic animal to obtain a license or permit or to register the animal with state or local authorities to privately possess the animal (excludes states only requiring import permits) (13 states)
N = The state does not require the “owner” to obtain a license or permit to possess the animal within the state, but may regulate some aspect thereof (i.e. entry permit, veterinary certificate, etc.) (7 states)
O = No statute or regulation governing this issue (1 states WI )
To see a list of states that have passed exotic cat bans since 2005 click HERE
The steady increase in legislation banning private ownership represents recognition by our society that private ownership leads to massive abuse. Social values evolve. It took decades to ban slavery in England and for women to win the right to vote in America. Those ideas started out as “radical”, held by a small minority. Gradually more and more people understood and agreed until they became a part of our value system that we take for granted today. The same trend is happening with private ownership of exotics. Gradually more and more people are realizing that this simply leads to widespread abuse of these animals. The best evidence of this is the accelerating trend in state laws. Just since 2005 eight more states have passed some level of ban.
Three Things to Know About Petting a Cub
There are a some lion and tiger cub exploiters still making the rounds at fairs, flea markets, parking lots and malls who are charging the public $10 – $25 to pet a baby lion cub or to play with a baby tiger cub.
USDA regulations should over ride state regulations on this matter, but in Florida the FL Wildlife Commission has set its own standard that may differ a bit, but not much from USDA’s ruling.
Here is what the law says about that:
Cubs cannot be handled by the public before the age of 8 weeks because they are not old enough to have had their first kitten vaccination. Cubs need to be vaccinated at 8, 10 & 12 weeks of age to build up an immune response, so it is really irresponsible to allow contact before 12 weeks.
USDA defines a juvenile big cat as being any cub over the age of 12 weeks and does not permit public contact with cubs over the age of 12 weeks. Despite the fact that touching cubs between the age of 8 weeks and 12 weeks is potentially deadly to the cub, USDA does currently (2010) allow public contact with cubs over 8 weeks and under 12 weeks of age.
In USDA vs Palazzo the courts ruled, “…it is now manifestly clear that USDA has changed its position, finding there to be “an inherent danger present for both the viewing public and the exhibited animals(s) where there is any chance that the public could come into direct contact with juvenile or adult big cats”…and finding that…”For regulatory purposes, APHIS generally considers big cats to become juveniles when they reach 12 weeks of age. 11 CX 20 goes on to explain that “According to Dr. Gibbens’ testimony, the policy precluding direct public contact with juvenile tigers was in effect in 2004 & was placed on the USDA’s website in 2005.
Florida law only allows contact up to 25 lbs for exotic cats. This works out to roughly the same 12 week limit that USDA has imposed, but Florida law does not protect cubs under that weight limit, despite age.
(a) Public contact and exhibition.
1. General: All Class I, II or III wildlife that will be used for contact with the public shall have been evaluated by the exhibitor to insure compatibility with the uses intended. All wildlife shall be exhibited in a manner that prevents injuries to the public and the wildlife. The exhibitor shall take reasonable sanitary precautions to minimize the possibility of disease or parasite transmission which could adversely affect the health or welfare of citizens or wildlife. When any conditions exists that results in a threat to human safety, or the welfare of the wildlife, the animal(s) shall, at the direction of a Commission officer, be immediately removed from public contact for an interval necessary to correct the unsafe or deficient condition.
2. Class I wildlife shall only be permitted to come into physical contact with the public in accordance with the following:
a. Full contact: For the purpose of this section, full contact is defined as situations in which an exhibitor or employee handler maintains proximate control and supervision, while temporarily
surrendering physical possession or custody of the animal to another.
Full contact with Class I wildlife is authorized only as follows:
I. Class I cats (Felidae only) that weigh not more than twenty-five (25) pounds;
Further the US Fish & Wildlife Service defines a sanctuary as a facility that does not allow contact between the animals and the public.
Accredited wildlife sanctuary means a facility that cares for live specimens of one or more of the prohibited wildlife species and:
(1) Is approved by the United States Internal Revenue Service as a corporation that is exempt from taxation under § 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, which is described in §§ 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of that code;
(2) Does not commercially trade in prohibited wildlife species, including offspring, parts, and products;
(3) Does not propagate any of the prohibited wildlife species; and
(4) Does not allow any direct contact between the public and the prohibited wildlife species.
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources64 N Union St.Montgomery, AL 36104
Bobcats and mountain lions are not allowed to be imported into the state, transported within the state (except for licensed game breeders), and future possession permits to keep these species will not be issued (as of March, 2003). Accredited educational facilities, research facilities, and permitted rehabilitation facilities shall be exempt from this regulation through the written permission of the Director of the Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries or his designee. Previous owners that already have permits will be grand fathered, but breeding is prohibited. Also issues permits for the public exhibition of wildlife. Carnivals, zoos, circuses, and other like shows and exhibits where ample provision is made so the birds, animals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish will not escape or be released in this state are permitted. Applications require statement regarding person education and experience, description of facilities, number of species desired, and signed agreement that recommended standards for wildlife exhibition will be adhered to.
Section 3-8-1 Rabies vaccine required for any canidae or felidae; applicability. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, it shall be illegal to own, maintain, sell, or trade any canidae or felidae for which there is no USDA licensed rabies vaccine. Anyone currently owning or maintaining such animal may keep the animal for the length of the animal’s life providing the animal is spayed or neutered and is registered with the Department of Agriculture and Industries. This section does not apply to any zoological parks, circuses, colleges, and universities, animal refuges approved by the Department of Agriculture and Industries, county or municipal humane shelters, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, or veterinary clinics.
(Acts 1994, No. 94-322, p. 562, §8.) http://wwwlegislature.state.al.us/CodeofAlabama/1975/3-8-1.htm
Department of Fish and Game
P.O. Box 115526, 1255 W. 8th Street, Juneau, AK 99811-5526, 907-465-4100
Does not allow private ownership of exotic cats and lawbreakers are subject to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. Only issues permits for fur farming of lynx and bobcat, or scientific or education use of animals. Applicants must demonstrate a significant benefit to the state and produce a substantial study plan identifying the purpose and need of their study in addition to specific objectives and procedures.
Game & Fish Dept 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086-5000, 602-942-3000
Issues Private Game Farm license, for USDA licensed facilities which allows the sale, trade, rental, purchase, display, import and export, possession and breeding of wildlife. Also has Zoo license and Wildlife Holding License. Wildlife Holding is divided into five categories: Scientific Study permit, Wildlife Management, Education Holding, Humane Treatment and Exhibit licenses. Wildlife holding permit is for animals that are unable to meet their needs in the wild, are abandoned, or are no longer useful in previous captive situations, they may not be exhibited. Scientific Study permit is only issued to students and faculty members of higher learning institutions. Humane treatment license is required to hold non- releasable animals. These are one-year renewable permits. They do not cover healthy specimens wanted for personal possession (no pets). Education Holding does not permit “exhibiting”, but requires educational use of animals. Exhibit license is to exhibit live wildlife already possessed. You must have previous and current year’s wildlife holding license before exhibit license will be issued. State statutes generally prohibit the unlicensed keeping of all live game animals, fur-bearing predators and many species of mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish. Some animals are allowed as pets if born in captivity, but may not be captured wild. A number of animals are banned in Arizona but lawful in other states. Even if they were obtained legally elsewhere, they may not be imported without a special permit. The black market: Most dealers are collectors or hobbyists, not commercial operators. Some species are valuable in the clandestine market. A list of restricted animals and detailed Arizona information on taking, keeping or dealing in wildlife may be found at www.azsos.gov. Search for “Game and Fish,” then click on “Title 12. Natural Resources” and “Article 4.” Other information on possessing wild animals can be found at www.azgfd.gov. For other questions, call Game and Fish headquarters at (602) 942-3000 or the regional office in your area.
Game & Fish Commission Two Natural Resources Dr. Little Rock, AR 72205 800-364-4263 and 501-223-6300
In 2005 Arkansas banned the private possession of large carnivores. Regulates ownership of native feline species. The rearing of any wild animal for commercial purposes requires a wildlife commercial breeder/dealer permit and a USDA license. Must follow general provisions applicable to Captive Wildlife in the Arkansas State Game & Fish Commission Code Book, Chapter 9. Also has a new wildlife translocation permit for transport of wildlife through Arkansas – requires a permit and health certificate be on file with AG & F. Possession of wild felines is further regulated on a county level in several counties.
Department of Fish and Game License and Revenue Branch 1740 North Market Boulevard, Sacramento, CA 95834, 916-928-5805
Department Regulations input Title 14, Section 671
Exhibiting permits for educational purposes, must have a written statement of purpose that specifically incorporates a NO PETS EDUCATION POLICY. Must also present animals in natural setting and natural behavior patterns. Breeding permits will be issued for animals that the department determines will not result in unwanted or uncared for animals or if species is endangered and needs to be propagated. AZA Zoo permit allows possession of only species listed on department approved permit inventory. Research must be college, government, or bona fide scientific institution. Also issues Broker/Dealer and Shelter.
Division of Wildlife 6060 Broadway Denver, CO 80216 303-297-1192
State Web Site
Division Regulation Chapter 11, Article II, # 1104
Issues Commercial Wildlife Park Permits. Wild felines must be possessed for commercial purposes only. Has specific requirements to meet definition of commercial; must provide a plan to show a profit, must have experience, maintain business records, hire and train employees, file state and Federal income tax based on this activity, etc. Further, there are caging requirements, and any animal exhibited out of a cage requires a $500,000 liability policy. Big Cats can be held in natural settings. Open topped enclosures must be 10 feet, with double electrified wires on top and fencing sunk 3 feet into ground.
Dept of Environmental Protection 79 Elm Street Hartford, CT 06106 860-424-3000
Statutes of Connecticut, Title 26, Chapter 490, Section 26-40a and Section 26-55
Only allows for municipal parks, zoos, nature centers, museums, laboratories and research centers to possess wild felines. Forbids private ownership or any feline breeding farms.
Department of Agriculture 2320 South DuPont Highway Dover, DE 19901 302-698-4500
Must have permit to possess animals not native to state and has specific carnivore category. Permit approval requires a cage, and perimeter fence, positive control of animal and approval of permit application. State issues Carnivore Class licenses to firms, dealers, pet shop operators, research centers, municipal zoos and traveling circuses. For private possession of wildlife for pet purposes, state issue permits for lifetime for each individual. Private ownership of wild mammals requires animals be purchased where previous permits have been issued. Before permit is issued, it must be determined that animal will in no way poses a threat or nuisance to the public.
Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission 620 South Meridian St. Tallahassee, Fl 32399 (850) 488-4676
Class I animals (includes panthera cats) can not be kept for personal use – must be commercial exhibitors. Class I permit requires 1 year and 1000 hours experience, details of experience and place acquired and 2 references. Documented educational experience in zoology or other relevant biological sciences, obtained at the college or technical school level or above, may substitute for up to six months or 500 hours of the required experience. The Class I permit applicant still has to prove another documented 500 hours or 6 months, if they have the Biological Sciences qualifications. Class I exhibitors must post a $10,000.00 bond or carry 2 million in liability insurance. Class I animal permits require that facilities for Class I animals must be constructed on properties of not less than 5 acres in size. Under a Class II and Class III permit, animals as large as mountain lions can be kept for pets. Class II permits require 1,000 hours experience, or 100 hours experience and successful completion of a test. Class II and Class III wildlife shall not be possessed in multi-unit dwellings unless the dwelling in which they are housed is equipped with private entrance, exit, and yard area. Class II permits for mountain lion, require that facilities for mountain lions must be constructed on properties of not less than 2 acres in size. Applicants for a Class III animals must be at least 16 years of age and shall require the satisfactory completion of a questionnaire developed by the Commission that assesses the applicant’s knowledge of general husbandry, nutritional, and behavioral characteristics. All permits require adherence to structural cage requirements. There are more than 1500 tigers in Florida, but less than 100 of them are in accredited facilities. If you are a resident, type your zip code into any box on this page to see what legislation is pending in your state and make a difference now! Florida issues more than 4000 exotic ownership permits each year and has to employ 27 inspectors at a cost to tax payers of 1.5 million dollars per year, just to allow people to keep, breed and sell exotic pets. Permits cost between 5. and 250. if you have more than ten animals. This does not generate nearly enough revenue to cover the cost of administration. What can a County in Florida do to ban exotic pet ownership when FWCC says they have supreme authority and no intention of banning this inhumane practice? Click here to see what the Attorney General has to say. Memo of Law.
Department of Natural Resources 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334, 404.656.3500
Wildlife Exhibition permit requires that you must be over 18, must be USDA licensed, must have cages with scientific names posted, must conduct a minimum 12 hours education per year, special requirements for rabies prone animals; bats, coyotes, foxes, bobcats. Have specifications for humane handling, care, confinement and transportation of wildlife. Rehabilitation permit; has caging and housing, veterinary, handling requirements. Wild Animal License requires that you must be USDA licensed as breeder, dealer or exhibitor, must have insurance voucher for large felines; big cat species, snow leopard, mountain lion or cheetah, must have proof that no local ordinances forbid holding wildlife. Has regulation that specifies humane handling, care, confinement and transportation of wildlife. No permits issued for non-commercial possession of wild felines, i.e. no pets allowed.
Department of Agriculture 1428 S. King Street, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814, 808-973-9560
Import of wild felines into this state is granted only for research by universities or government agencies, exhibition in municipal zoos or other institutions for medical or scientific purposes as determined by the Board of Agriculture. No private ownership allowed.
Department of Agriculture
P. O. Box 790, Boise, Idaho 83701-0790 208-332-8540
Issues Fur farm permits for bobcats and lynx. Applicants must notify Dept of Agriculture of intention to possess fur bearing animals, individually mark each animal, maintain records of purchases, sales and progeny, allow facility inspection by F & G personnel, and importation of any bobcat or lynx requires valid state health certificate. Frequently people will circumvent the law by claiming to be fur farmers so that they can raise and sell lynx as pets. If you are a resident, type your zip code into any box on this page to see what legislation is pending in your state and make a difference now!
Department of Natural Resources
One Natural Resources Way, Springfield, IL 62702-1271, 217-782-6302
Leopards, jaguars, tigers, lions, cheetahs, mountain lions, snow leopards, ocelots, bobcat, jaguarundi and margay are considered by the state as “Dangerous Animals” and require permit approval by the Director of Natural Resources. Permits for these wild felines will only be issued for USDA licensed exhibitions, zoos, for scientific or research purposes, or to animal refuges by the Director of Natural Resources. Illinois does issue fur farm licenses for bobcat. Frequently people will circumvent the law by claiming to be fur farmers so that they can raise and sell lynx as pets. Importation of any wild feline into the state requires approval from Director. An intent to import wildlife must be filed with state Director not less than 30 days prior to importation, and must include veterinary proof animal is free of disease, and director must be satisfied that in no way does the animal pose a threat to wildlife or potential to become a nuisance to people of the state. Zoos and public displays of wildlife are exempt from permit requirement.
Division of Fish and Wildlife
402 W Washington St., Rm. W273 Indianapolis, IN 46204 317-232-4080
Issues Wild Animal Possession Permits. Permits are for one year only, must be renewed annually. Class III is for wild cats. Bobcats are native endangered species, but may be legally possessed with proof of legal captive birth paperwork. Must provide health certificate for animal being possessed, escape recapture plan, pay $10.00 fee, have cages inspected by conservation officer. Provides caging requirements that include: concrete floors must be covered with natural substrate, loafing platforms, 14 foot tall walls with 45 degree incline can be used if no roof provided, etc. Persons licensed by the USDA as commercial exhibitors, zoos or dealers are exempted from this state permit and its requirements.
Department of Natural Resources
502 E. 9th Street Wallace State Office Building Des Moines, IA 50319 515 281-5918
Department Web Site
5/17/07 Iowa bans Internet Hunting and on 5/27/07 Iowa made it illegal for a person to privately own or possess a dangerous wild animal and it is now illegal to breed or transport them into Iowa. Exotic pet owners won’t have to give up their pets because the bill doesn’t apply to animals currently owned by Iowans. However, the bill requires owners to register their dangerous wild animal. The animals must be listed with the state an electronic identification device must be attached or embedded into the animal.
Category: N & L
Department of Wildlife and Parks
512 SE 25th Ave Pratt, KS 67124 (620) 672-5911
Exotic felines may be kept, bred, sold, imported, purchased, without limit in time or number despite the fact that there is no legitimate market for them. Wildlife must be confined and all activity is subject to federal or state rules and regulations. Possession of mountain lions requires a Special Wildlife Possession permit. Commercial breeding of mountain lions requires a Game Breeder Permit. Bobcats purchased legally from other states and possessed in Kansas are not regulated. There is no reason for the general public to be breeding and selling exotic cats in Kansas.
Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources
#1 Sportsman’s Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601, 800-858-1549
State Web Site
Department Web Site
Effective 2005, a ban on the private possession of tigers, lions, monkeys, bears, venomous reptiles, and other dangerous wildlife has been enacted in Kentucky. One of the most comprehensive restrictions on the keeping of exotic animals as “pets” in the United States, the regulation also prohibits existing animals from being bred. Existing confining facilities shall be large enough to allow reasonable space for exercise, shelter, and maintenance of sanitary conditions. The holder of an existing pet or breeding permit shall allow a conservation officer to inspect the facilities at any reasonable time. As of 2012 Kentucky has held the record for five years in a row of having the most lacking regulations for protecting animals of all kinds according to the ALDF.
P.O. Box 98000 Baton Rouge, LA 70898 1-800-256-2749
Bobcats require a non-game quadruped exhibitor or breeder license. In April 2006 Louisiana passed a ban on the possession of non human primates, cougars, bears, wolves & hybrids. Exceptions are AZA accredited facilities. Those in legal possession at this time may keep the animals until they die, but they may not be bred, replaced nor taken out in public and no public contact is allowed.
Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
41 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0041
284 State Street
Augusta, ME 04333-0041
Department phone number is: 207-287-8000
Personal Possession requires Import Permit and Propagator Permit. Exhibitor requires exhibitor’s permit. Have caging, health, safety, and sanitation requirements. Permit application asks for reason to be imported, experience level of applicant, and takes into consideration the potential for animal to harm humans or environment.
Department of Natural Resources 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401, 1-877-620-8DNR (8367)
State Web Site
No personal possession permits. Denial of personal possession is based on the rabies concern and a lack of an USDA approved rabies vaccination for wild felines. A public zoo park, museum, educational institution, or a person holding a valid state or federal permit for educational, medical, scientific or exhibition purposes may possess, trade, barter, import or sell wild felines. As of 2006 a sanctuary is defined as a 501 c 3, that does not buy, sell, trade, lease, or breed outside of the SSP and does not conduct commercial activity with respect to any animal. While it would appear that MD is trying to be responsible in regards to rabies, the exclusion of educators, who drag their animals out to schools for a fee, outweighs their proactive attempts.
Department of Fish and Wildlife
251 Causeway St., #400, Boston, MA. 02114, 617-626-1500
Department Web Site
No permits for breeding unless in compliance with AZA, IUCN, or the state of Massachusetts or the USA, and in the eyes of MA Director will make a meaningful contribution to the survival and recovery of the species. No personal possession permits for the purpose of pet ownership will be issued. Authentic and legitimate educational use certified by zoological or biological officials will be issued permits. Commercial businesses where the animal is in conjunction with the applicant’s primary existing occupation or livelihood will be granted a permit.
Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife Division P.O. Box 30444 Lansing, MI 48909 517-373-1263
Must have permit to hold wildlife for native species mountain lion and lynx are state-endangered species and cannot be privately owned for pets. Bobcats in MI are regulated by the Department of Natural Resources. Separate enclosure must be built first, and then a special permit called “Permit to Hold Wildlife in Captivity” needs to be obtained BEFORE getting the animal and are issued by the Department of Natural Resources Permit Specialist, James Janson. Inspection may be required before permit approval and Monthly Inventory Reports are required after obtaining the permit. Minimum Enclosure Requirements for a Bobcat: 8ft x 6ft x 6ft for a single animal. 24 sq ft of floor space per additional animal. (compare to the five square miles this animal would roam in the wild) Clawing logs. Den Box 2ft x 2ft per animal. Climbing tree 3 or more 4in diameter branches for each animal. Lounging shelf must be 14in x 36in located at least 3ft above floor per animal. Tigers, Leopards, Lions, Jaguar, Panther, Cheetah, mountain lion, and hybrids of such are not to be owned by private individuals. Only persons who possess a USDA Class C exhibitors license will be granted a state permit to possess big cat species or mountain lions. Existing large felines owned by those without this federal permit must register their feline with the state and a variety of regulations must be complied with for the animal to continue to be possessed for it’s lifetime. The new regulations forbid the breeding of any large feline. Importation of other non-native species is regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Division . Department of Natural Resources does not regulate small exotic felines at this time.
Department of Natural Resources
500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4040 651-296-6157 or toll free 888-646-6367
It is unlawful for a person to possess a regulated animal. A regulated animal is defined as all members of the felidae family (except domestic cats); all bears; and all non-human primates. A person who possesses a regulated animal on the effective date of the law, January 1, 2005, has 90 days to register the animal with the local animal control authority. Persons possessing a registered regulated animal may replace the regulated animal if he/she dies, but may replace he/she only once. The law also requires those longtime owners to have a written plan to recapture escaped animals and to meet Department of Agriculture requirements for caging, including having a perimeter fence around primary enclosures. Regulated-animal signs must be posted, and wildcats must be registered with local animal-control authorities, who in rural counties might be the sheriff.
Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks
1505 Eastover Dr., Jackson, MS 39211, 601-432-2400
Must obtain permit for all big cats, clouded, snows, cheetahs and mountain lions. Can get personal possession, or breeding or exhibiting permits. Requires $100,000 per animal Liability insurance, health certificate $300.00 per animal yearly fee. Sanctuaries are exempted from paying yearly fee, only if they are USDA Class C licensed. Permits have caging, housing, record keeping requirements.
Department of Conservation P.O. Box 180 Jefferson, MO 65102 573-751-4115
2010: Large Carnivore Act (LCA): This law requires anyone who owns, breeds, possesses, or transports a large carnivore on or after January 1, 2012, to obtain a permit from the Missouri Department of Agriculture and to maintain a minimum of $250,000 in liability insurance. Verification of insurance must be provided annually. The LCA (Section 578.600 – 578.624 RSMO) includes the following protections for the animals;
- Requires the Department of Agriculture to enforce the provisions of the Act to ensure that owners of such animals “practice best husbandry and health care protocols to ensure the humane and safe treatment of large carnivores on behalf of their physical well-being.”
- Requires owners of large carnivores to provide their animals with adequate care and treatment, as established by USDA, in the areas of housing, handling, transportation, sanitation, nutrition, water, general husbandry, veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather and temperature.
- Prohibits the issuance of a permit to own or possess a large carnivore to anyone who has “been found guilty of, or pled guilty to, a violation of any state or local law prohibiting neglect or mistreatment of any animal…”
- Prohibits the issuance of a permit to anyone who has any type of felony conviction within the previous ten years.
Effective March 2008 MO Wildlife Code changed as follows: Safety: Because of the inherent danger and potential liability associated with the possession of bears, mountain lions, wolves and their hybrids, the Conservation Commission now requires owners of these animals to identify each individual with a microchip embedded under the animal’s skin. The owners must also submit a blood or tissue sample for DNA analysis. All animals must be registered with the Department when acquired, born, at death, or when sold. This will aid enforcement of illegal sales of these animals and will help Department biologists distinguish escaped and released captives from wild animals. MO Conservationist magazine Feb issue at email@example.com where Wildlife Code book for 2008 has been released. Now help get SB 1032 passed at CatLaws.com. Current Regs: Regulates bobcat and mountain lion only – has caging requirements and permit application. Bobcats are Class 1 animals, mountain lions are Class II animals. Bobcats can be permitted for personal possession reasons, called Wildlife Hobby Permit for $10 fee. Commercial breeders can get a Class I Wildlife Breeder Permit for $50 per year. Possession of mountain lions requires a Class II Breeder Permit for $150.00 per year – they cannot be possessed under the wildlife hobby permit. Has caging, husbandry and transportation standards.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks
P.O. Box 200701 Helena, MT 59620 406-444-2535
State Web Site
Bobcats and lynx are listed as furbearers. But if they are raised not for their fur or body parts, a permit is not required. State issues Fur Farm permit, but make one exception. If animal is raised not for its fur or body parts, a permit is not required. Importation of wild felines in the state requires an import permit. Possession of wild felines requires a valid permit. State has permits for Roadside Menageries and Wild Animal Menagerie and Zoo licenses. Tigers and mountain lions must be tattooed on the left thigh. Roadside Menageries must keep detailed records of acquisition, birth, death and transfer. There are also housing, feeding, treatment and care regulations. Roadside Menagerie Permits requires proof of $100,000 liability insurance on each occurrence of bodily injury. Insurance must be with a reputable operation and must cover all injury to the public whether negligent operation, maintenance care, confinement or supervision causes an accident. Permit fees are $10.00 for less then 6 animals, and over 6 animals cost $25.00. No more than 10 animals may be possessed with a Wild Animal Menagerie permit. Has caging, record keeping, feeding, treatment and sanitation requirements. Zoo permits require that the licensee be a non-profit organization.
Game and Parks Commission
2200 N. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503 402-471-0641
Private, non-commercial possession of wild felidae, including cross breeds with domestic cats is illegal. Only issues permits for the possession of felidae to municipal, state or federal zoos, parks, refuges or wildlife areas, or bona fide circus or animal exhibit. Also issues fur farm licenses for bobcat and lynx for the purpose of raising these species for fur or producing stock for sale to persons engaged in fur farming.
Department of Wildlife
1100 Valley Rd., Reno, NV 89512 775-688-1500
Department Web Site
Requires a permit for the possession of bobcats and mountain lions. Also has import permit for bobcat and mountain lion. All other felines are exempt from permit requirements. Issues both non-commercial licenses ($5.00 per year) and commercial licenses ($100 per year.) Has caging requirements. Allows for the option of open-topped enclosures. mountain lions must have perimeter fences 8 feet tall and have Y-recurve on top of at least 12 inches wide. Gates must be self-closing and have two locking devices. Native felines must be permanently marked or ear-tagged.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department 11 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301, 603-271-3211
New Hampshire only allows possession of wild felines by USDA licensed exhibitors. The NH state exhibitor permit requires that one have 2,000 hours of paid experience with a licensed exhibitor to qualify. Exhibitors must not allow direct contact of the felines with the public.
N.J. Division of Fish and Wildlife, Mail Code 501-03, P.O. Box 420, Trenton, NJ 08625-0420
Does not issue permits for potentially dangerous species (All felids) for pet or hobby purposes. Possession of potentially dangerous species must be for scientific holding, animal exhibitor, zoological holding or animal dealer. Application asks for education and background information, demonstration of a working knowledge of the species, the stated purpose and intent, description of housing and caging plans. An Endangered species possession permits will not be issued for the purpose of breeding by amateurs. A scientific institution, zoological society or similar organization must sponsor the possession of any endangered species.
Department of Game and Fish P.O. Box 25112 Santa Fe, NM 87504 505-476-8000
Must have importation permit before wildlife may enter this state. Discourages and prevents the importation of non-native species into state. Does issue permits for zoos, Class A parks, and scientific study. Importation of non-game species requires a confinement and maintenance plan, and certificate from veterinarian that animal is disease free and copy of applicant’s USDA exhibitor or breeder license.
State Department of Environmental Conservation
625 Broadway, Albany, New York 12233-0001 518-402-8995
State Web Site
In 2005 new law specifically prohibits the possession, sale, barter and importing of big cats, monkeys, large reptiles, bears, wolves, venomous snakes and many other wild animals as pets. State issue permits for Possession, Sale and breeding, Scientific or Exhibition purposes, Collection and Possession in some cases. Endangered species breeding permits. Also issues fur-farming permits for bobcats and lynx. Native felines may not be kept as pets. New legislation is pending and you can help save the lynx from anal/genital electrocution and eliminate dangerous exotic cats from being sold or possessed in New York.
Wildlife Resources Commission
1701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1701 919-707-0010
In 2005 NC is proposing a ban of private ownership of exotic animals. Issues Wildlife Captivity License. For private possession of mountain lions, state requires natural habitats of rather grandiose proportions. Minimum one-acre enclosure, 12 foot fences, with 45 degree recurve, have a pool, have a den, have vegetation and landscaping, property must be owned by applicant. Zoos or Scientific Research facilities are allowed to keep mountain lions in concrete and chain link cages. No natural habitats required for bobcats as are for mountain lions, but state has minimum cage size requirements. Must apply for Import Permit if native feline is being brought into state from outside the state. Must be USDAlicensed to import any species native to the US. But that is not a requirement to purchase in-state, though NC does not issue permits for pet purposes. State does not regulate non-native species, but many counties have enacted regulations of wild felines.
Board of Animal Health Department of Agriculture 600 E Boulevard Ave. Dept 602 Bismarck, ND 58505 701-328-2655
Regulates private ownership of nontraditional livestock, i.e.: all wild animals in captivity, by issuing licenses. Bobcats and lynx are category 3 animals (native to the state) all other felines are Category 4. (Inherently dangerous) Before any class 3 or 4 animals can be imported into the state, an importation permit must be issued. Nontraditional livestock permitees must keep records of sales, purchases, escapes, captures, diseases or animal transfers or births. Record keeping must be available for inspection.
Department of Natural Resources 2045 Morse Road, Building G, Columbus OH 43229-6693 614-265-6300 and 800-WILDLIFE
Requires a permit to posses the native endangered species, bobcat. Permits issued for zoological, breeding, scientific and educational purposes. Must have permit before the bobcat can be imported into the state. On June 5th, 2012 a law passed that banned the private possession of dangerous wild animals, including most exotic cats. Those who have the animals must register them but cannot buy or breed more. The only exemptions for breeding are AZA accredited zoos (and ZAA for now, but that needs to change) and sanctuaries that are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries can continue to rescue wild animals. See the details of the OHIO WILD ANIMAL BAN.
Department of Wildlife Conservation P.O. Box 53465 Oklahoma City, OK 73152 405-521-3851
Requires a Commercial Breeder’s permit for possession of any native bear or cat (black bear and mountain lion) that has an adult weight that exceeds 50 pounds, even if the animal is not to be bred. Issues Personal Possession permits for any native wildlife to be kept for hobby purposes. Importation into the state of bobcats, or mountain lion, requires an Import Permit. Cage construction and inspection is required before permit is issued. Requires that permitee follow the general care guidelines of the AWA. Permit fee is $48.00 for commercial permit and $5.00 for personal possession permit. Passed this change in spring 2003 legislative session removing the regulation of exotic felines over 50 pounds. Just native species are regulated.
Department of Fish and Wildlife
3406 Cherry Avenue N.E, Salem, OR 97303 503-947-6000 or 800-720-ODFW 
Neither bobcat or lynx can be bartered, sold or purchased in the state of Oregon. Oregon Dept. off Fish and Wildlife issues holding permit for bobcat, but it is not legal for Oregon residents to sell bobcats. They issue commercial wildlife propagators license for mountain lions. The State Department of Agriculture regulates exotic animal permits.
Game Commission 2001 Elmerton Ave Harrisburg, PA 17110 717-787-4250
State Web Site
Has Exotic Wildlife Possession Permit ($50.00 per animal) that does not allow breeding and sale. Exotic Wildlife Dealer Permit ($200.00) does allow breeding and resale. Wildlife Menagerie Permit ($100) allows possession of cats as well as many other species, but to qualify, facility must be open to the public and charge a fee. PA Game Commission has caging, housing, bill of sale, sanitation and general requirements to be met to qualify for permit. State game protector inspects facilities prior to permit approval. Exotic Wildlife Possession Permit requires inspection by game protector prior to receiving animal. Exotic Wildlife Permit allows the importation and possession of wildlife, but a separate permit must be applied for each animal. New regulation passed in April 2003 requires a two year experience requirement for each for each canid or felid species permit applied for.
Division of Fish and Wildlife 3 Ft. Wetherill Road, Jamestown, RI 02879, 401-423-1920
Rhode Island State Veterinarian Dr Scott Marshall Division of Agriculture 235 Promenade St. Room 370 Providence, RI 02908
Must obtain a permit from the RI Dept of Environment, Department of Agriculture to import, possess or receive any native wildlife or hybrid thereof. Permits are issued to AZA zoos, US F & W Service, or other USDA approved facilities complying with the AWA, with specific attention to part 3 – Standards, part 2 sub-part E – Identification of Animals and additionally sub-part C – Research facilities. Exotic wildlife is regulated by the state veterinarian. To possess or import any exotic wildlife, contact the RI state veterinarian.
Department of Natural Resources P.O. Box 167 Columbia, SC 29202 803-734-3886
State Web Site
Section 47-5-50 Prohibition on sale of wild carnivores as pets; No carnivores, which normally are not domesticated, may be sold as a pet in this state. Dangerous animals are not permitted beyond premises unless safely restrained. Further, those possessing dangerous animals must maintain them in a controlled and confined manner. Dangerous animal is not defined only on the basis of species. No person may possess with the intent to sell, offer for sale, breed, or buy, or attempt to buy, a known dangerous animal; however, this subsection does not apply to a person who is licensed to possess and breed an animal under the classifications specified and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Animal Welfare Act as codified in Title 7 of the United States Code. It is illegal to sell, possess or import wild felines except for scientific or exhibition purposes. 2/19/07 Chester County will be looking at possibly changing its zoning procedure and putting in an exotic animal ban. Because SC has no state wide ban on possession in place, many counties have passed their own ordinances either banning or strictly regulating exotic animal ownership. York County has an ordinance banning exotic animals. Lancaster County has banned them as well, as has Fairfield County. Lexington County outside Columbia has a ban, as does the town of Mount Pleasant. Beaufort County has a ban as well. Lexington County’s ordinance is just one page. It lists several types of “exotic animals” from lions and tigers and other big cats, to reptiles, bears, elephants and gorillas. Lancaster County’s ordinance bans exotic animals, saying “no person, firm or corporation shall keep or permit to be kept on their premises any exotic animal as a pet for display or for exhibition purposes.”
Animal Industry Board 411 South Fort Street Pierre, SD 57501 605-773-3321
State Web Site
Department Web Site
Must apply for annual Captive Non-Domestic Animal permit. Facility must be built and approved before issuing permit. Permit fee is $10.00 per animal, maximum of $100.00. State issues Import permit and it may be granted by telephone. Zoo permit is also $10.00 per animal up to $100 maximum and allows the possession of any non-domestic mammal. Applicants must be non-profit exhibitors.
Wildlife Resources Agency
Ellington Agricultural Center, 440 Hogan Rd., Nashville, TN 37220, 615-781-6500
State Web Site
Possession of dangerous animals requires commercial activity and USDA license. Has Exhibitor permit – $500.00 per year and Breeder permits $1,000 per year. Zoos are exempt from permit requirements if they are AZA accredited. There is a Rehab permit. A test is required for Class I permit (covers big cat species, snow leopards, cheetahs and mountain lions). Test is on handling, habits, health care and housing. Have caging, sanitation, and housing standards. Cages must be inspected by TDW before animals will be permitted. Small cat species fall under Class III, which does not require a permit. Bobcats are considered a native species and require a class II permit. State has housing and transportation rules for possession of any wild animal.
Parks and Wildlife Department, Headquarters 4200 Smith School Rd., Austin, TX 78744 389-4800
State Web Site
In 2001 the Texas legislature passed a state law mandating that all counties either regulate or ban “dangerous” wild animals. A list of species considered dangerous contains nearly all felines, with only a few species such as geoffroy’s cats, jungle cats and asian leopard cats not listed. Each county must develop a plan to administer a registration process that requires a permit fee, caging standards, $100,000 liability insurance and veterinary care requirements as outlined in the state law. Many counties have chosen to ban rather then fund a county registration requirement. This is an irresponsible way to manage a state wide problem. There are more tigers in Texas than there are left in the wild. The state needs much tougher legislation to prevent the breeding, selling and often the shooting of exotic cats in canned hunts.
Department of Natural Resources Main office
PO Box 145610, 1594 W North Temple
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-5610
Division of Wildlife Resources Main office
1594 W North Temple, Suite 2110m PO Box 146301
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6301
Department Web Site
Issues permits for educational and scientific use of wild felines. Applicant must be university, government agency, non-profit institution, or persons involved in wildlife research. Wild felines can be imported and possessed for commercial purposes by a bona fide zoo, circus, amusement park, or film company. Also bobcat or lynx can be propagated for their fur but you must apply for a certificate of registration from the department.
Department of Fish and Wildlife 103 South Main Street Waterbury, VT 05671 802-241-3700
State Web Site
Must have an importation permit before any wild felines may enter the state. Office does not issue permits if wild felines are desired for pets, breeding stock or private collection. They have not issued any importation permits for wild felines. With sufficient documentation, they would allow the importation for scientific research, education, or exhibition purposes.
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries P.O. Box 11104 Richmond, VA 23230 804-367-1000
State Web Site
Does not allow pet possession of wild felines. Must be USDA licensed as a Class B broker or C Exhibitor or have scientific or educational purposes. Must have import permit before animals can enter this state. USDA licensed persons are automatically granted an import permit, but must notify state 24 hours in advance of intention to import, and FAX a copy of their current license or registration prior to receiving new animals.
Department of Fish and Wildlife
Building 74, 324 Fourth Ave, South Charleston, WV 25303, 304-558-2754
(7) Scientific research or display: The director may issue written authorization for a person to import into the state, hold, possess and propagate live specimens of wildlife listed in subsection (2) of this section, for scientific research or for display by zoos or aquariums who are accredited institutional members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), provided that the person:
(a) Confines the specimens to a secure facility;
(b) Does not transfer specimens to any other location within the state without the director’s written authorization, and the specimens are transferred to other AZA-accredited facilities and transported by AZA-accredited institutional members or their authorized agents;
(c) Does not sell or otherwise dispose of specimens within the state, unless the director gives written approval to sell or dispose of the specimens;
(d) Keeps records on the specimens and make reports as the director requires; and
(e) Complies with the requirements in this section.
Division of Natural Resources
Building 74, 324 Fourth Ave, South Charleston, WV 25303, 304-558-2754
3/21/14 Gov. Tomblin has signed a bill into law to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals. Introduced by Del. Randy Swartzmiller (D-1), HB 4393 passed the House by a vote of 72 to 23, and the Senate by a 22 to 11 vote.
Department of Natural Resources Box 7921 Madison, WI 53707 608-266-2621 toll free 888-936-7463
Regulates native species bobcat, mountain lion and lynx, but not exotic wildlife. State allows possession of these species for exhibition or advertising purposes and issues Exhibitor’s License. Applicants must provide information on location of exhibit, source of exhibit animals, USDA license to exhibit. State also issues permit for Game Farms to those engaged in the breeding or hobby keeping of wildlife.
Game and Fish Department 5400 Bishop Boulevard Cheyenne, WY 82006 307-777-4600
Possession of all wildlife is regulated by state statutes and commission regulations. Application for possession permit requiring source of wildlife, purpose of possession, description of holding facility, biological evaluation on threats to native species must be approved before importation permit will be issued. Bobcats can be possessed for commercial fur farming. Lynx, considered native protected species may be possessed only for scientific and educational permits. There shall be no private ownership of animals classified as trophy animals, which includes mountain lions. Applications for possession of exotic felines will be evaluated upon human health and safety, animal welfare and threats to Wyoming’s wildlife resources from competition, damage, and destruction of habitat and predation.
USDA Licensing & Federal Laws As of September 17, 2007 it is illegal to transport a big cat across state lines as a pet, which means from any non USDA licensed facility or to any non USDA licensed facility. Read the entire Captive Wildlife Safety Act. USDA prohibits public contact with big cat babies under the age of 8 weeks and over the age of 12 weeks. If you see someone using a cub who is too young or too old, please photograph the event and report the exhibitor’s name, location and what you saw to stop this abuse. There is only a one month window in which exhibitors are allowed to use the cubs. There is a pending bill to ban all contact with big cats and their babies. Before you pay to have your photo made with a big cat, check with your regional USDA office to make sure you are not breaking the Federal laws. This is an important law that will protect big cats from being bred for this purpose. Many states and individual counties require a USDA license (usually a Class C Exhibitor’s license) as a prerequisite for gaining a permit to possess wild felines. The following explanation may clarify this requirement.
Commercial Activity is Required for a USDA License so a person who wants a big cat as a pet will be forced to take the cat out in the open on display or breed and sell cubs in order to circumvent the laws against having the big cats as “pets”. While the requirement was probably well intentioned, it created more opportunity for injury and fatalities than it cured. USDA Animal Welfare Act regulates the use of animals in commerce. Commercial activity is a prerequisite for licensing. If there is no commercial activity, (i.e., the animal is merely a pet), you are not eligible to enroll in the Animal Welfare Program and gain a USDA license. USDA licenses animal facilities which own or possess these animals. The license is issued to an individual. There are three classes of USDA license – A, B and C. For ownership of wild felines, each class of licenses require that the license holder submit a letter saying that they have adequate husbandry knowledge of the species they possess. Class A License In the case of wild felines specifically, a USDA Class A license is mandatory if the individual is engaged in the sales of offspring produced by the individual’s felines. If the individual is breeding his adult animals but is not selling the offspring, he is not eligible for a USDA Class A license. (no commercial activity) Holder’s of a Class A license may not broker animals, only sell their offspring. Class A license for wild felines requires caging that allows the animal to stand up and turn around and a perimeter fence, no closer that 3 feet to the cage. Perimeter fences for felines defined as dangerous (specifically lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, mountain lion, cheetah) must be eight feet in height. Caging for smaller felines must be surrounded by a six foot perimeter fence. In the case of multiple animal collections, often a single perimeter fence encloses all the animal cages. There is no definition of how this fence is to be constructed. Class B License A USDA Class B license is mandatory if the individual is selling wild felines not bred by the adult animals in the licensee’s possession. That is, they are brokering other people’s animals – buying and selling adults or offspring, not part of the licensee’s long term collection. Holder’s of a Class B license may engage in limited, controlled exhibiting, such as is required to facilitate the sales of offspring or recently acquired animals. When conducting exhibition of animals the licensee must be responsible for physically preventing any direct contact between the visitors and the animals and their cages. This type of exhibiting cannot be a major part of the commercial activity engaged in by the licensee. Class B license for wild felines requires adequate caging and a perimeter fence, no closer than 3 feet to the cage. In the case of multiple animal collections, often a single perimeter fence encloses all the animal cages. Class C License USDA Class C licenses are commonly referred to as an Exhibitor’s license. Person’s holding class C licenses may exhibit their animals to the public. This is the same license all zoos possess. All exhibitors, whether municipal owned zoos, or privately owned roadside zoos and menageries, circuses, or self proclaimed educator’s that bring animals off-site, must adhere to the same minimal USDA guidelines and standards. USDA Class C facilities may breed and sell offspring, they may broker offspring bred by others, and they may exhibit animals, though the major activity of a Class C licensee must be the exhibiting of the animals. Examples of this is found with zoos: 1. they are open to the public (exhibit), 2. produce baby animals and sell them (breeder), 3. they trade animals amongst other zoos and often times sell animals for various reasons after only owning them a short while (broker). Every year the public wants to see babies so all of last year’s babies must be disposed of. Since all of the zoos breed to supply the public’s demand to see babies the offspring are rarely wanted by other zoos so they end up in the hands of backyard breeders and in canned hunts. Minimum USDA Requirements for possession of Wild Felines Facilities which regularly allow the public to view their animals must have these three elements. 1. A cage big enough for the animal to stand up and turn around in. 2. A barrier fence, which can be just a rope. 3. A perimeter fence, of no particular substance or strength. The Animal Welfare Act is enforced by 90 inspectors who are charged with inspecting more than 10,000 licensees that are breeding, selling and exhibiting wildlife. For more information about USDA licenses and the animal welfare act, visit the USDA Animal Care web site at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/ac/. The USDA was originally created to regulate farming and the “use” of animals. Big Cat Rescue does not believe that exotic cats should be “used” and having the oversight of exotic cats in the hands of those who have such an archaic view of animals as mindless creatures who are undeserving of our compassion and respect is a travesty.
Important Notice Every effort has been made to ensure that this information is accurate, and appropriate contact information has been included for each state. This is only a brief summary, and laws are being changed daily. In many cases, the actual laws are quite long and involved. This page last updated: June 2012 Accredited Rescue Facilites Accredited ZoosWhat can you do about it? Write your state representatives and tell them that exotic cats should not be bred or sold to be kept in cages. Check out pending legislation that you can influence with just a few mouse clicks below.
Got an update? Let us know at Info @ Big Cat Rescue . org