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Posted on September 2, 2020 in Arizona Law

Arizona Exotic Animal Laws Explained

Arizona has some of the strictest laws regarding exotic animals. The state restricts ownership and possession of a variety of exotic animals to entities that have the animals for wildlife management, wildlife rehabilitation, public health, education, or commercial photography. Those entities must have a special permit to keep exotic animals for specific purposes.

What Exotic Animals are Prohibited in Arizona?

Arizona Administrative Code R12-4-406 covers restrictive live wildlife in the state. The section includes a comprehensive list of the animals that are prohibited from being kept in the state as pets.

Some of the restricted exotic wildlife included in the list are:

  • Lions, tigers, jaguars and other large cats
  • Poisonous snakes and many other types of wild snakes
  • Chimpanzees, spider monkeys, orangutans, macaques, gorillas, and other primates
  • All non-domesticated canines, including coyotes and wolves
  • Caimans, crocodiles, alligators, and other members of the Crocodilia family
  • Gila monsters
  • Many types of turtles, toads, and frogs that are typically found in the wild
  • Bears, weasels, skunks, raccoons, and foxes
  • Many species of fish and aquatic life
  • Many types of birds
  • Sloths, armadillos, and anteaters

The list is much more extensive. Anyone who wants to own an exotic pet in Arizona should review the list in full before purchasing a pet.

Additionally, there could be local ordinances banning certain pets. Therefore, it is always wise to check with the local animal control agency or city government to ensure that owning a specific type of exotic pet does not violate local laws.

Questions about exotic pets can be directed to the Arizona Game & Fish Department.

An Exception for Desert Tortoises

Desert tortoises are native to Arizona. However, it is illegal to take a desert tortoise from the wild. Occasionally, a desert tortoise is captured and cannot be returned to the wild.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has a program that allows individuals to adopt captive desert tortoises that cannot be released back into the wild. Under state law, only residents in Arizona can apply to adopt a desert tortoise.

Before adopting a desert tortoise, the Department suggests that a person learn more about the tortoise, including care and feeding requirements. Also, these animals can live between 80 to 100 years, so a person needs to have a long-term plan in place for the care and upkeep of the tortoise before adopting one.

Because tortoises hibernate during the colder months, the adoption period for desert tortoises in Arizona is generally between April 1 through September 30 each year.

What Criminal Charges Can I Face for Violating Exotic Pet Laws in Arizona?

A.R.S. §17-306 makes it illegal for anyone to import, transport, release, or possess live wildlife within the state. Only specific wildlife authorized by the commission or defined in Title 3, Chapter 16 is permitted to be kept as pets in Arizona.

Also, it is unlawful to import and transport or release any species of wildlife that is listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. A person who violates this law can be charged with a felony and might need help from a team of experienced Phoenix criminal lawyers.

Do Exotic Animals Make Good Pets?

Some people believe that exotic animals do make good pets. There are some exotic animals or wild animals that are legal to own in Arizona. However, exotic animals can be expensive to own.

Many exotic pets require special diets and housing requirements. Veterinarian care can be difficult to find because many vets do not treat exotic pets.

Also, some exotic pets are not suitable to be around children or other domesticated animals. If you decide that you do not want the pet any longer, it can be difficult to get rid of the pet. It is illegal to release an exotic animal into the wild.

Liability for Owning an Exotic Animal

Individuals who own exotic animals are also liable if those animals injure another person. If your pet injures a guest in your home or someone who is legally on your property, you can be held liable for damages caused by the attack.

Exotic pets can cause a variety of injuries, such as puncture wounds, soft tissue damage, and infections. The owner could be held liable for medical bills, loss of income, and damages related to pain and suffering.

A person who is bitten or injured by an exotic pet can file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner seeking compensation for these damages. Homeowners’ insurance may not cover the damages if the policy excludes injuries caused by wild animals or exotic pets.

Before purchasing an exotic pet in Arizona, it is wise to consider the legal implications of owning the pet, in addition to the practical requirements of owning a wild animal.