5 Popular Animals That are Illegal as Pets in California

Owning exotic animals as pets has become more popular in the United States. Clients often ask attorneys if they could get into trouble owning a wild animal as a pet. For example, a client might ask if it is legal to own a monkey in California.

The truth is that if you live in California, you could face serious consequences for owning specific pets as animals. The California Fish and Game Code makes it illegal to own animals that are endangered. Also, it is a misdemeanor to own an animal that is a threat to public safety, health, or the native wildlife, fish, or agriculture in California. 

The penalties you may face can include a civil fine of $500 to $10,000. You must also pay for the costs to remove the animal and store and care for the animal. Criminal penalties for the misdemeanor charge could result in up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Let’s look at five specific animals that are considered illegal pets in California.

All primates are illegal as pets in California. They are considered a threat to wildlife and a threat to public safety and health. Other than zoos, a person must have a permit to own a monkey. The person must demonstrate a legal reason for owning the monkey, such as for medical research or using the monkey in television shows or movies.

Ferrets belong to the same biological family as weasels, otters, polecats, and minks. They were initially domesticated for vermin. Ferrets are popular as pets in many states.

However, you cannot legally own a ferret in California without a permit. Ferrets could pose a risk to the state’s native birds and animals if they escape. Therefore, it is illegal to own a pet ferret except for limited purposes, such as medical research. 

Domesticated races of chinchillas are legal as pets in California. You can legally purchase and own a chinchilla. Certain races of dwarf hamsters, mice, golden hamsters, and guinea pigs are also legal as pets. However, gerbils are not legal as pets in California.

Wild squirrels are abundant in California, but it is illegal to own a pet squirrel in the state. Squirrels do not make good pets. They will eat almost anything, and they have incredibly sharp teeth and nails. 

It is also illegal to feed wild animals like squirrels in CA. Feeding a squirrel is rarely prosecuted, but you could be fined up to $1,000 for feeding a wild squirrel. 

Hedgehogs are adorable creatures. Many people keep them as pets in other states. However, they are illegal to own as pets in California. 

One of the reasons that California outlaws hedgehogs as pets is because they can transmit diseases. Their quills do not easily detach from their bodies like the quills of a porcupine. However, the quills are sharp and can puncture a person’s skin, thereby transferring salmonella, ringworm, and other diseases to the person.

The main reason hedgehogs are illegal is that they could pose a significant risk to wildlife if they escape or someone releases them into the wild.

Who is Responsible for Injuries Caused by Pets?

The pet owner is generally liable for any damages a pet might cause to another animal or a person. The most common cases involving injuries caused by pets are dog bite claims. An owner of a dangerous exotic animal could even be strictly liable for the injuries they cause.

Dog owners can be held financially liable for damages such as:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Lost income, wages, and benefits
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities
  • Mental and emotional trauma
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

A dog bite can cause severe and life-threatening injuries. A victim may sustain nerve damage, traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, broken bones, infections, and other injuries. 

Immediate medical care can help reduce the risk of life-threatening conditions and permanent impairments. Prompt medical attention also documents the injuries for a personal injury claim.

Deadline to File a Dog Bite Injury Claim

The statute of limitations for filing a claim related to a dog bite is generally two years from the injury date. However, there could be exceptions, as in the case of minors who are bitten by dogs. 

It is best to seek legal advice as soon as possible. An attorney monitors the deadline for filing claims, guides you through the claims process, and calculates your injury claim’s maximum value based on your damages.