9 Illegal Pets in Virginia

In Virginia, it’s illegal to own animals like bears, wolves, crocodiles, and big cat species without a permit. Learn more here.
Written by Melanie Krieps Mergen
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
, it’s illegal to own animals like bears, wolves, crocodiles, and big cat species without a permit. Violating Virginia’s wildlife and exotic animal ownership laws can result in fines, and in some cases, even jail time.
When a state makes owning certain animals as pets illegal, it’s usually for the well-being of people, other animals, the local ecosystem, or local agriculture. 
But since pet laws can vary so much from one place to another, you might not realize your once-legal exotic pet is now an outlaw after you’ve relocated to a new state. Virginia’s animal ownership laws might not be the most lax, but they’re also not as strict as certain states like
So, what kinds of pets are illegal in Virginia, and what happens if you own one without a permit? Courtesy of
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What happens if you have an illegal pet in Virginia?

Often, certain pets are illegal because of the risks they can present to people, other animals, the local environment, or local agriculture.
If you’re hoping to own a wild or exotic animal in Virginia,
state law
requires that you need to have a permit to do so in many cases.
As a permit holder, you’re responsible for making sure the animal in your care isn’t released into the wild. Depending on the species, it could harm other people or animals—or it could establish itself as an invasive species in the local environment and create problems for local wildlife and agriculture.
If you’re found in violation of Virginia’s wildlife and exotic pet ownership laws, it’s possible you could be convicted of a Class 2 misdemeanor or a Class 3 misdemeanor. A Class 2 misdemeanor in Virginia could result in up to six months in prison and/or a $1,000 fine, while a Class 3 misdemeanor won’t require any jail time but could result in a fine of up to $500
If you were in possession of a wild or exotic animal permit but violated any of the requirements that come with it, you could have your permit revoked or suspended for up to five years.
In addition to state-level laws, certain cities and counties in Virginia have additional regulations regarding keeping certain exotic pets, so it’s a good idea to review whether any apply to you before seeking out an unusual pet.

What pets are illegal in Virginia? 

Generally speaking, if an animal is considered “predatory,” “undesirable,” or “nonnative” by the state, you probably won’t be able to keep it as a pet without the proper permit.
If you were hoping to legally make one of these animals your own as a Virginia resident, without the necessary permission, you might be out of luck.
  1. Wolves
Majestic as they might be, wolves aren’t domesticated to the degree that your German Shepherd is. Because wolves can potentially be dangerous to humans, they are better left in the wild.

2. Crocodiles

For obvious reasons, crocodiles don’t make the safest pets. Without the proper understanding of how to care for and handle a crocodile, you could easily get yourself or someone else injured or killed—and you don’t want to face hefty legal consequences as a result.

3. Alligators

Like crocodiles, it’s not very safe to keep an alligator as a pet, so they’re outlawed in Virginia unless you have the proper permit.

4. Elephants

Elephants are incredibly complex creatures, and keeping them in captivity doesn’t suit them well. Even if it did, you’d have to have a certain level of expertise to give elephants what they need, and they can be especially dangerous to humans when they’re feeling temperamental. 

5. Rhinoceroses

Rhinos might be herbivores, but these mighty creatures can still be extremely dangerous to people, thanks to their sharp horns and massive strength. They’re better left to their own devices in the wild.

6. Hyenas

In case you weren’t already aware, hyenas aren’t native to Virginia and can be dangerous to people and other animals, including livestock, so they’re illegal to keep as pets without a permit. You’ll have to surround yourself with laughter in other ways.

7. Bats

Bats play important roles in their ecosystems, but they can be prone to carrying diseases like rabies that present dangers to humans, which makes them a public health risk and therefore not an ideal pet for the average person.

8. Big cats, wild cat hybrids

Big cat species like lions, tigers, and jaguars require a permit to own in Virginia. That’s probably for the best, considering they’re incredibly strong and hard to contain, and their excellent hunting skills would pose a public safety threat to people if they were to get loose.
You’d also need a permit for certain wild cat hybrid species that are considered exotic, like serval cats.

9. Bears

Lions, tigers, bears—don’t own any of them without a permit in Virginia. It goes without saying, but bears are powerful predatory animals that are both dangerous to humans and hard to contain, considering they’re fast, strong, and excellent climbers.
Wondering about other exotic pets that require permits to own in Virginia? You can find a more comprehensive list in the
Virginia Administrative Code
So, there are plenty of animals you can’t keep as pets in Virginia. But other than cats and dogs, what pets can you legally own in Virginia? Are there any legal exotic pets in Virginia you can own without needing a permit?
Virginia state law states, other than the exotic animals found on
this list
, nonnative or exotic animals can be bought, owned, and sold, as long as they’re not subject to other regulations like threatened and endangered species laws and as long as they’re not released into the wild.
Here are a few examples of some legal animals to own in Virginia:
  • Monkeys and other primates
  • Certain monk parakeets that were “captive bred and are close-banded with a seamless band”
  • Domesticated animals (but not domesticated foxes, as of 2017)
That said, just because you can own a certain type of animal doesn’t mean you should. Many wild and exotic animals just aren’t meant to live in captivity, while others require highly specialized care. It’s always vital to know what kinds of conditions an animal needs to allow it to thrive and that you’ll actually be able to provide that before claiming one for yourself.

Finding pet-friendly home insurance

Finding the right policy as a pet owner can get complicated, but here are some pointers from
to help you make that insurance shopping process a little easier.
No matter what kind of pet(s) you own, it’s a good idea to make sure your
home insurance
provider knows about them. That way, you can make sure you have the right amount of
liability coverage
You hope it would never become necessary, but if your pet did end up injuring someone or damaging their property, that liability coverage could help cover legal expenses and provide you with some extra financial protection.
Certain home insurance providers may provide coverage for exotic pets, but others might require you to purchase separate insurance to cover your bases. If a provider discovers you own a pet they consider dangerous and you haven’t informed them of it, they could deem the animal too much of a risk and drop your coverage.
Final tip: by using the Jerry app, you could save time and money on your search for pet-friendly home insurance. It only takes about 45 seconds to answer a few quick questions and start comparing customized quotes from top insurance providers. 
And if you have questions about insurance options for your furry, feathered, or scaly companion, Jerry’s friendly, experienced team of agents are just a text, call, or tap away in the app!
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