Guide to Legal Pets

You've just found the most cuddly, friendly squirrel in your backyard. Wouldn't it make a great pet? Or, perhaps you think an exotic animal like a monkey would make a good companion. However, you should consider many factors before turning a wild animal into a pet.

  • Most native wildlife and many exotic animals may not legally be kept as pets in Georgia.
  • Young animals undergo dramatic behavioral changes as they mature. They become very aggressive and try to escape, and returning such an animal to the wild will usually result in its death.
  • The dietary needs of most wild animals are different from common domestic pets. Many exotic pets suffer from malnutrition because of their special needs, resulting in a constant state of bad health or death.
  • Many wild animals are most active at night. This normal behavior can be very disruptive when you are trying to sleep.
  • Many diseases which affect people can be carried by healthy animals. Some examples of diseases transmissible to people (i.e. zoonoses) include rabies, tularemia, plague, salmonellosis, and others. Vaccines against these diseases are not approved for use in wild animals.
  • Some animals are very long lived and require extensive care. Monkeys can live more than 40 years. Who would care for the animal should something happen to you?
  • Veterinarians may be unfamiliar with diseases of wildlife or exotic pets. Typically, veterinarians are unwilling to treat animals held illegally for liability reasons.

Ask Yourself:

  • Is what I am doing legal?
  • Am I willing to risk the health, and possibly the life, of myself and my family?
  • Am I willing to risk destroying the animal?
  • Am I willing to change my lifestyle to conform to the animals natural and unalterable behavior?

If you cannot truthfully answer "yes" to each question, do not attempt to keep a wild animal as a pet.


Native Wildlife

By Georgia Law, most native species of wildlife cannot be held without permits or licenses. These licenses are not issued for the purpose of holding native wildlife as pets. These restrictions apply to the various species of animal, regardless of the origin or morphology.


Georgia Law allows the taking of certain native species -- namely rats, mice, armadillos, coyotes, groundhogs, beaver, freshwater turtles, venomous snakes, frogs, spring lizards, fiddler crabs, freshwater crayfish, freshwater mussels, and nutria -- because of their status as a nuisance or other reason. State regulations prohibit the holding of live armadillos, coyotes, groundhogs, and beaver without the proper permits or licenses. Certain freshwater turtles, mussels, and other species on Georgia's Protected Wildlife List cannot be possessed or collected without proper licenses.

The following list of species native to Georgia may not be held as a pet regardless of its origin or morphology. Although extensive, this list does not include all native wildlife that is prohibited. If there is any doubt about the legality of possessing any species, contact the Special Permit Unit at 770-918-6408.


  • Armadillo
  • Bats, all species
  • Black Bear
  • Bobcat
  • Chipmunk
  • Cottontail Rabbit
  • Coyote
  • Cougar
  • Flying Squirrel
  • Fox Squirrel
  • Gray Fox
  • Gray Squirrel
  • Groundhog
  • Marsh Rabbit
  • Mink
  • Mole
  • Muskrat
  • Opossum
  • Pocket Gopher
  • Raccoon
  • Red Fox
  • River Otter
  • Skunk
  • Swamp Rabbit
  • Weasel
  • White-tailed Deer

Reptiles and Amphibians

  • Alligator
  • Alligator Snapping Turtle
  • Black Racer
  • Bog Turtle
  • Box Turtle (Eastern, Florida, Gulf Coast, Three-toed)
  • Brown Snake
  • Coachwhip
  • Corn Snake
  • Crayfish Snake (Glossy, Striped)
  • Crowned Snake (Southeastern, Central Florida)
  • Diamondback Terrapin
  • Earth Snake (Rough, Smooth)
  • Fence Lizard
  • Flatwoods Salamander
  • Florida Worm Lizard
  • Garter Snake
  • Georgia Blind Salamander
  • Glass Lizard (Eastern, Island, Mimic, Slender)
  • Gopher Tortoise
  • Green Anole
  • Green Salamander
  • Hellbender
  • Hognose Snake (Eastern, Southern)
  • Indigo Snake
  • Kingsnake (Black, Eastern, Mole, Scarlet)
  • Map Turtle (Alabama, Barbour's, Common)
  • Milksnake
  • Mud Snake
  • One-toed Amphiuma
  • Pigeon Mountain Salamander
  • Pine Snake (Florida, Northern)
  • Pine Woods Snake
  • Queen Snake
  • Rainbow Snake
  • Rat Snake (Black, Gray, Yellow)
  • Redbellied Snake
  • Ribbon Snake
  • Ringneck Snake
  • Rough Green Snake
  • Scarlet Snake
  • Sea Turtle (Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback, Loggerhead, Ridley)
  • Six-lined Racerunner
  • Skink (Broadhead, Coal, Five-lined, Southeastern Five-lined, Ground, Mole)
  • Spotted Turtle
  • Striped Newt
  • Water Snake (Banded, Brown, Florida Green, Northern, Redbelly)
  • Worm Snake

Birds and Fishes

All species of birds encountered in the wild in Georgia are protected by state and federal laws except English sparrows, European starlings, and pigeons.  

All species of fish native to the waters of Georgia are protected.


Non-Native Wild Animals/Exotics

The animals listed below are examples of the exotic species regulated under Georgia Law. The Department should be consulted before any exotic animals which are not normally domesticated in Georgia are acquired. Hybrids or crosses between any combination of domestic animals, wildlife, or regulated wild animals and all subsequent generations are regulated in Georgia and may not be held without a license. The exotic species listed below, except where otherwise noted, may not be held as pets in Georgia. This list is not all inclusive.

  • Marsupials (wallabies, kangaroos, sugar gliders, etc.); all species

NoteSugar gliders are legal as pets if the owner possesses valid documentation that the animal originated from a source inspected and regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

  • Insectivores (shrews, moles, hedgehogs, tenrecs, etc.); all species
  • Lemurs; all species
  • Bats; all species
  • Primates (monkeys, apes, etc.); all species
  • Sloths, armadillos, etc.; all species
  • Pangolins or scaly anteaters; all species
  • Rabbits and hares; all species except those normally domesticated
  • Rodents (capybaras, cavies, prairie dogs, degus, etc.); all species except those normally domesticated in Georgia such as hamsters, gerbils, and guinea pigs
  • Whales, dolphins, etc.; all species
  • Carnivores (weasels, ferrets, foxes, cats, bears, wolves, etc.); all species.

Note: European ferrets are legal as pets if neutered by 7 months old and vaccinated against rabies. Wolf hybrids are not a legal pet in Georgia. Most exotic cat hybrids, such as a savannah cat, are not a legal pet in Georgia.

  • Aardvark; all species
  • Elephants; all species
  • Conies; all species
  • Manatee, dugong; all species
  • Ungulates (hoof stock); all species except American bison, water buffalos, and llamas
  • Rhinoceros
  • Wart hog
  • Hippopotamus
  • Hawks, eagles, vultures, etc.; all species
  • Turkeys; all species except those normally domesticated
  • Cuckoos; all species
  • Owls; all species
  • Sky larks
  • Bulbuls; all species
  • Thrushes; all species of genus Turdus
  • White eyes; all species of genus Zosterops
  • Yellow hammers
  • Sparrows; all species of genus Passer except English sparrow
  • Cape weaver
  • Baya weaver
  • Queleas; all species
  • Blackbirds, grackles, etc.; all species of genera Molothrus, Quiscalus, Agelaius
  • Monk parakeet (a.k.a. Quaker parakeet)
  • Java sparrow (a.k.a. Java Rice Bird, Java Rice Finch)

Note: The Georgia Department of Agriculture has determined the Quaker or Monk Parakeet and the Java Rice Bird are prohibited from entry into the State of Georgia due to being capable of breeding in the wild and, if established in the wild, presenting a threat of being detrimental to the agriculture industry of this State.

  • Starlings, mynas, etc.; all species except European starling and Hill mynas
  • Crows, ravens, etc.; all species
  • Crocodiles, gavials, etc.; all species
  • Alligators and caimans; all species
  • Cobras, coral snakes, etc.; all species
  • Adders, vipers, etc.; all species
  • Pit vipers; all species
  • Venomous colubrid snakes; all species
  • Gila monsters and beaded lizards; all species
  • Giant and Marine toads
  • Banded tetra
  • Piranha; all species
  • Grass, Silver and Bighead carp
  • Air-breathing catfishes; all species
  • Parasitic catfishes; all species
  • Giant walking catfishes; all species
  • Snakeheads; all species of genera Ophicephalus and Channa
  • Fresh-water stingray; all species