NEW MEXICO (KRQE) — Nothing beats owning a pet. However, with some celebrities and cultural icons owning exotic animals to show some form of status, it’s no wonder some people are curious about what exotic animals they can have as pets.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has a 27-page list of animals that are legal and illegal to own. The animals are divided into one of four “import” groups:
Group I – for semi-domesticated animals that do not require a permit.
Group II – live, non-domesticated animals that are not known to be invasive or dangerous and pose no known risk to the health, safety or welfare of the public, native wildlife, livestock or habitats.
Group III – Live non-domesticated animals with minimal or manageable concerns that require specific provisions that must be met prior to the issuance of an import permit to consider the health, safety or welfare of the public, native wildlife, livestock or habitat.
Group IV – Live non-domesticated animals classified as dangerous, invasive, undesirable, state or federally threatened, endangered, fur-bearing or other species of concern identified by the Director. Importation of Group IV species is prohibited to the general public but may be permitted for scientific study, Game and Fish approved recovery and recovery plans, zoological displays, temporary events or entertainment, use as a service animal, or by a qualified expert.
Owning tigers in New Mexico is illegal, they are a Group IV animal and are federally endangered. And it’s not just tigers, pretty much every wild cat is listed as Group IV. That said, servals, oryxes, panthers, cheetahs, and ocelots are all illegal to own in New Mexico. Group IV also includes elephants, zebras, kangaroos, monkeys and rhinos.
What happens if someone is caught with a Group IV animal at home? New Mexico Game and Fish officials say it’s a full misdemeanor, which carries up to 364 days in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
People can own waterfowl such as geese, swans and ducks, but they need a permit. However, there are some ducks that are illegal to own, such as the Hawaiian, Laysan, and Pink-Headed. These birds are endangered nationwide.
If you want to keep a bat as a pet, you have to be very specific. Only the broad-nosed bat is allowed with a permit; all others are Group IVs.
Some other animals that you can own are:
- Short-tailed possum
- sugar glider
- Northwest Salamanders
- Jefferson salamander
- blue spotted salamander
- Hog Isle boa constrictors
- Central American boa constrictor
Also note that owning a crocodile or alligator is illegal in New Mexico. All venomous species of snakes, mole vipers, stiletto snakes, or burrowing snakes are also prohibited.
For animals not included in the Game and Fish list, such as koalas or hippos, officials say they should be designated as Group IV animals until a different decision is made by the Game and Fish director. The entire list is available on the NM Game and Fish website.