Under Georgia law, wild animals and certain exotics are illegal to keep as pets in the Peach State. While you probably aren't surprised that it's illegal to keep a rhinoceros or a bat as a pet, you might not realize that species welcome as pets in other states must stay out of Georgia. If you do end up with an illegal pet, contact a rescue that operates in the state. You will have to give up your animal, but you might not face charges, which can include substantial fines and even incarceration. Whatever you do, don't just dump the animal.
Not Normally Domesticated
The key words in the Georgia Department of Natural Resources list of prohibited species are "not normally domesticated in Georgia." Basically, if the animal is wild, it can't be a pet. The list includes rodents such as the capybara or prairie dog, any type of primate, raptors, dolphins and whales, foxes, bears, wallabies and kangaroos, and many more. While Asian elephants are domesticated in the Far East, that's not the case in Georgia, so both the Asian and African elephant make the prohibited list. Wolf hybrids, or wolves crossed with domestic dogs, are not allowed in the state.
Detrimental to Agriculture
Some species make the list because, if they escape domestic confinement, they could breed and become a threat to state agriculture. Many birds are prominently banned for this reason, including owls, cuckoos, thrushes, all but the English sparrow, ravens, crows and skylarks. Permissible pets in other states, including the Java finch, monk and Quaker parrot, aren't allowed in Georgia. It is one of 17 states that don't permit the keeping of African pygmy hedgehogs, given the risks to local ecosystems if they get loose.
Forget keeping any type of crocodile species as a Georgian pet. That includes alligators, caimans and crocodiles. Any type of non-native venomous snake is prohibited as a pet, such as vipers or adders, but so are native non-venomous snakes. Gila monsters, giant toads and gopher tortoises are just some of the species illegal to keep domestically.
Permissible With Permits
Georgia allows keeping of the sugar glider, a popular marsupial pocket pet, if the owner possesses "valid documentation that the animal originated from a source inspected and regulated by the USDA." If you purchased your pet from a backyard, unregulated breeder, you have no such proof. European ferrets are legal if they have been spayed or neutered by the age of 7 months and have received a rabies vaccination.
Wildlife Exhibition Permits
Don't think you can get around Georgia wildlife and exotic animal rules by claiming your pet is part of a wildlife exhibition or that you are a wildlife rehabilitator. The state does issue such permits, but regulations require an applicant to hold a U.S. Department of Agriculture license for exhibition, breeding or dealing purposes. To qualify, you must follow regulations governing cage types and sizes, transport, feeding and sanitation. If used for educational purposes, the animals' cages must identify the occupant by "common and scientific names." For a rehabilitation permit, you must meet all veterinary, housing and handling requirements.
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources: Wild Animals / Exotics
- Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center: Ga. Code Ann., § 27-2-22
- National Journal: Why Some States Won't Let You Have a Pet Hedgehog
- Southeastern Reptile Rescue: The Georgia Illegal Reptile Amnesty Program
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources: Wildlife Exhibition License Applicants
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.