Legal Exotic Pets In NY – Your Guide to Owning Unique Animals Safely

Legal Exotic Pets

When I think of pets, I think of the typical dog, cat, hamster, or goldfish. Never does my mind travel to exotic animals, including sloths, kangaroos, or even hyenas. But would you believe that in the state of New York, you can actually own exotic animals that you’ve probably only ever seen in a zoo? 

The different types of animals you can own in New York is crazy, but just because owning one is legal, does it mean you actually should? 

Legal Exotic Pets in NY

legal exotic pets

From capybaras and porcupines to coatimundis and fennec foxes, the state of New York allows feline hybrids F4 and other animals that are grandfathered in under a Dangerous Wildlife License to be kept as pets.

But although the state of New York allows some exotic species, the city of New York has very tight restrictions on which animals New Yorkers can own. And for a good reason.

You wouldn’t exactly want a kangaroo escaping your private property, hopping its way down Times Square, now would you? 

What Pets Are Illegal in New York State?

illegal pets in new york

In the state of New York, you aren’t allowed to own any native wildlife or any wild animals that the Department of Conservation (DEC) categorizes as the big five.

The big five refers to primates, big cats, bears, canids (dog-like carnivorans), and any large or venomous reptile, meaning crocodiles, constrictor snakes, and monitor lizards.

It almost seems like common sense not to own any dangerous wild animals, but what you and the next person consider a dangerous wild game can be a completely different story.

Exotic Animals Permit

exotic animals you can own

To own an exotic animal in New York, you must register for a permit or license. Any person found to own an exotic pet without a license or permit issued can receive a hefty fine, and their animals are seized from their possession. 

Businesses like private colleges or state universities licensed by incorporated humane societies that possess endangered and threatened species also need a permit, whether their purpose is for breeding, education, or scientific research.

Can You Own a Monkey in NY?

animals you can have as pets

The DEC considers nonhuman primates as being one of the big five, meaning in the state of New York, monkeys are illegal to own.

It does seem cool to own a monkey, but at the end of the day, they’re an unpredictable wild animal that can cause great damage and harm, potentially even death. I personally think it’s better to stick to domestic animals like domesticated dogs or maybe domestic pigs.

Exotic Animals You Can Own in NY

So, now for the mind-blowing part. Here are 14 exotic animals you can own in the state of New York. Remember, this is in regard to the state, not the city.


legal exotic pets in ny

Sloths are one of the exotic animals you can own in New York, and although they don’t initially seem like dangerous animals, they’re solitary creatures who don’t like being touched.

So, what will happen if you do touch them? If you aggravate, provoke, or if the sloth feels threatened by you in any way, they can severely hurt you with their razor-sharp claws and teeth.

For me personally, the whole point of having a pet is to cuddle up to and destress with after a long day, so if you were to own a sloth, then you wouldn’t be able to touch, go near, or even interact with it for most of the day because these creatures are known for sleeping up to 18 hours.

That’s a pretty pointless pet if you ask me.



Coatimundis are omnivores native to South America, Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States. You’ve probably never heard of a coatis; I know I hadn’t, but it’s very likely that you know of their relative, the raccoon. 

Raccoons are illegal to own in New York, so why isn’t the coatimundi? People can own coatimundis as pets because they aren’t native to the state, so they don’t fall under any native game laws. 

Many people who have kept coatis as pets have likened them to be like extremely smart toddlers who never grow up, and I just want to tell you now coatis can live over ten years in captivity. Could you deal with a toddler for over ten years? I think not.


legal exotic pets

Binturongs are also known as bearcats, but they’re neither a member of the feline nor bear family. Instead, binturongs are similar to weasels, only bigger, and are native to south and southeast Asia.

On the IUCN endangered species red list, binturongs are listed as vulnerable species due to habitat loss and the illegal wildlife trade. 

As with most animals, if you’ve raised a captive-bred binturong from birth, they can be even-tempered and good-natured, but at the end of the day, they still are wild animal species and can become very aggressive if you harass them.


exotic pets you can own

Primates are illegal in New York, but the little kinkajou looks and acts extremely similar to primates with its long tail and tree-climbing capabilities. Like the coatimundi, kinkajous are related to raccoons, but as they’re native to Central and South America, they aren’t under any native game laws. 

As kinkajous spend most of their lives in trees, they need ample space and large enclosures to keep them happy and content as pets.

Unless you live on a huge acreage with the means to build such a structure, keeping a kinkajou as a pet isn’t a good idea, as they can become aggressive and claw and bite their victim if they are startled or harassed.

If the need for a large enclosure and the possibility of attacks doesn’t put you off getting a kinkajou as a pet, then maybe the fact that kinkajous can carry Baylisascaris procyonis, which can cause death in humans if it reaches the brain will. It’s not really worth it, is it?


exotic animals you can buy

Exotic marsupials are legal in the state of New York, and this includes the largest marsupial still living on Earth today, the kangaroo.

Although kangaroos are indigenous to Australia and New Guinea, and you can literally drive past them every day on your way to work, kangaroos can be aggressive, and just one kick from their strong hind legs could put you in the hospital.


exotic animals that you can own

Porcupines are yet another exotic species that you can keep as pets. However, North American porcupines are exempt from that as they are native to the state of New York. 

You’re probably well aware of the skunk emitting an odor when it feels threatened, but did you know that porcupines also have this ability? When a porcupine is scared, it will not only raise its sharp quills but also let off an unpleasant pungent odor, which I can’t say I’d like to smell around my house.

Honey Glider

cool pets to have

The honey glider or sugar glider gets its name from its diet of sap and nectar and, of course, its ability to leap through the air thanks to the wing-like membranes that run down its body from its front to back legs.

And I know there is no denying that honey gliders are adorable, and every time I’ve watched a video of them leap, it puts a smile on my face, but honey gliders are extremely sociable animals who prefer to live in groups.

So if you were to have one as a pet, you’d need to commit to at least four of them.

Exotic Squirrels

cool animals for pets

There are many different species of squirrels, and people do like to keep squirrels as pets. During my childhood, we would always take nuts out on our dog walks to feed the squirrels, but as much as I enjoy feeding them out in their natural habitat, I can’t say I’d like one as a pet. 

Suppose you live in the state of New York. In that case, you have to be careful as quite a few species, including Eastern Gray squirrels, American Red squirrels, Fox squirrels, Northern Flying squirrels, and Southern Flying squirrels, are native, meaning they’re off the possible pet list for New Yorkers.


what are some exotic pets

This one will probably shock you as much as it shocked me because when I think of hyenas, I put them up there with lions, tigers, and wild dogs. So how do people own hyenas in New York?

Well, New York’s big five ban has a loophole as it doesn’t include members of the Hyaenidae family, which, you guessed it, consists of the Spotted hyena, the Striped hyena, and the Aardwolf, which is a smaller insect-eating relative. 

Because hyenas aren’t part of the canine or big cat family, you can legally own a hyena in New York state or even as an exotic pet in Florida. But, before you get any ideas, hyenas are extremely dangerous animals and have been known to kill humans throughout history. 

If you enjoy living on this Earth, I suggest you get a more domesticated animal and leave hyenas in the wild, or at least in other wildlife sanctuary. 


cool animals as pets

Capybaras are the largest living rodent, and although they’re related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, I’m not sure you’d really want one roaming about your house.

The capybara is another species that prefers the company of other capybaras, as in the wild, they live in groups of up to 20. 

Now, if you have an extremely large piece of land and are dedicated to taking care of numerous capybaras, then sure, they may make a great pet.

But that land will need to include a water source as capybara love to swim, and as their ticks can carry the Rocky Mountain spotted fever, you’ll need to be extremely cautious when petting them. 

Non-Venomous Reptiles

pet sloth legal in what states

Many people like to keep reptiles as pets, and in the state of New York, you can own any non-venomous reptiles as long as they aren’t native to New York. This means all you turtle, tortoise, reptile, and snake lovers can own a scaly friend as long as it doesn’t naturally secrete or inject venom.

I love tortoises and turtles, and I would love to own one, but they can live anywhere from 20 to 150 years, which is a massive commitment that you would then have to pass down to future generations. It’s definitely something you need to think about before heading down to the pet store.


is it legal to have a sloth as a pet

Wallabies are like kangaroos but smaller, and although they may be better suited to pet life as opposed to their much larger cousins, they are still wild animals that need a huge habitat.

Granted, because of its size, a wallaby does look cute and harmless, but just like a kangaroo, their back legs can administer a powerful kick that’ll do some damage if you’re the one they’re kicking at. 

Boa Constrictors

is it legal to own a giraffe

So in New York, large constrictor snakes like anacondas and Burmese pythons are illegal, but boa constrictors are legal.

Now I don’t know about you, but to me, a snake that can reach up to 13 feet in length is incredibly large. However, compared to the largest snake, the Reticulated python, which can reach over 20 feet long, I guess boas aren’t that big after all. 

To own a boa, you will need an incredibly large tank and dedication, as in captivity, boas can live up to 40 years old. 

Did you know that you can own many exotic animals in Texas with a certificate of registration and a permit? When it comes to owning snakes in Texas, you simply need to apply for an Exotic Snake Permit that costs $20.

Fennec Fox

are sloths legal to own

Fennec foxes are another animal that you think would be classed as one of the big five, but these adorable little foxes with ears unusually big for their heads are legal to own in New York.

The fennec fox is the smallest of all fox species and is native to the desert, where they eat insects, small mammals, and birds.

In the United States, fennec fox pups are taken from their mothers when they’re born and hand-raised to make them tame and more suitable for life as a pet. There is even a fennec fox breeders registry to prevent inbreeding and potential health problems.


Are Monkeys Legal In NY?

All primates are illegal in New York, so you can not own one as a pet.

Are Sugar Gliders Legal In NY?

Sugar gliders or honey gliders are legal in New York, meaning you can own one as a pet. If you live in New York City, however, sugar gliders are banned, so you’ll have to look for a different furry companion.

Are Axolotls Legal In NY?

Axolotls are legal in New York, so you can keep one of the happy-looking salamanders as pets if you so wish.

Are Hedgehogs Legal In NY?

Hedgehogs are legal to keep as pets in the state of New York, but they are illegal in New York City.

Are Ferrets Legal In NY?

Ferrets are legal pets in New York, but like many exotic animals, they are illegal in New York City.

Can You Own A Hyena?

Strangely and shockingly enough, you can own a hyena as a pet in some states, including New York, Oklahoma, and Nevada. In other states like New Jersey, exotic pets like hyenas are illegal, and for the few exotic species you can own, you need a permit and a license.

Are Wild Birds Legal In NY?

Wild birds, like bald and golden eagles, are illegal to own as pets in New York, whereas migratory game birds are legal.


Just because owning exotic pets is legal doesn’t mean you should, as these animals come with unpredictable behaviors that could cause serious injury or even death. 

The exotic pets that are legal vary from state to state, with the exotic pets that are legal in California being very different from the exotic animals as pets that are legal in Texas, for example.

If you do plan to get an exotic pet, do your research on your state laws, and even more importantly, do your research on the animal. 

Sit down and consider if you can give this exotic animal the space, food, and care it needs before bringing it into your possession.

Megan Bryant
Megan owns two very needy but adorable Dachshund pups named Oakley and Cooper, who are the light of her life and the reason she’s awake at 6:30 am - not by choice, but because, according to her dogs, 6:30 is breakfast time, and they’ll stop at nothing until there is food in their bowls. Growing up with pets all her life, Megan has become extremely passionate about animals and found a love for researching and writing about ways to care for and appreciate all species that call this Earth home. During the times she’s not busy working, you’ll typically find her cuddled up between dogs watching various TV series.

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