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Are exotic pets legal in North Carolina?

Many states have laws restricting private citizens from keeping wild animals, such as tigers, wolves or chimpanzees, as pets. Some go so far as to ban citizens from having exotic pets altogether. North Carolina is an exception; while individual counties have the right to ban exotic pets or place restrictions on their ownership, state law imposes no such restrictions or prohibitions.

According to WRAL News, at least 12 counties in the state have taken advantage of their authority to ban ownership of wild animals completely. Other counties allow exotic pets but impose certain rules on their owners. Other counties have enacted no regulations at all regarding wild or dangerous animals as pets.

The rationale given to banning exotic pets is usually twofold. First, animals that are not domesticated can represent a public safety hazard. They may have a propensity to cause harm to humans or domestic pets like dogs or cats. Second, holding animals in captivity upon private property may not be healthy or beneficial for the animals themselves. Many regard it as an animal welfare issue.

In part because of these concerns, the state legislature has seen past attempts to enact a statewide ban on private ownership of wild and potentially dangerous animals. The most recent occurred in 2015. The bill would have specifically prohibited keeping bears, big cats and wolves as pets but failed to gain traction in the state Senate after passing the house.

An attack by a lion last year at the Conservators’ Center near Raleigh that resulted in the death of a 22-year-old intern has recently increased interest in the debate. However, there are no known efforts currently underway to introduce new legislation banning statewide ownership of dangerous animals.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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