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Maryland Exotic Pet Laws

Maryland’s exotic pets law bans you from keeping pets that are considered to be dangerous to people. Here’s what pets are allowed and what obligations pet owners have.

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Who do the exotic animal laws of Maryland apply to?

The ban on dangerous animals in Maryland applies unless you have an exception. If you’re keeping wild animals as what most people would commonly regard as a pet, the law probably applies to you.

Exceptions include:

  • Agriculture
  • Science (e.g., research facility)
  • Education
  • Public exhibitions
  • Animal sanctuaries
  • Veterinarians providing care to the animal
  • Nonresidents of Maryland traveling through the state within ten days.

These are not blanket exceptions where you can just say you’re a scientist or some other qualifying exception. In most cases, you’ll need some sort of license or permit.

If the animal poses a potential threat to public safety, you may have additional insurance, staffing, and security requirements.

What animals do the exotic animals laws apply to?

Animals that are almost always exempt include a domestic dog or cat as well as ferrets. Turtles need a special permit.

To keep any other animal, it generally needs to be expressly allowed by a state or local rule. If you owned the animal prior to it being banned, you may be able to apply to have it grandfathered in. The last major change to the exotic animals law was in 2006, but there have been some updates since then.

If you fall under an exception to the dangerous animal laws, you can generally keep the types of animals that are related to your exempt purpose.

What wild animals are banned as pets in Maryland?

The following animals are generally banned as pets in Maryland.

  • Wild cats and domestic hybrids weighing over 30 pounds
  • Wild canines and hybrids, including foxes
  • Monkeys and apes
  • Bears
  • Caimans, alligators, and crocodiles
  • Venomous snakes
  • Skunks
  • Raccoons and opossums
  • Cervids (deer and similar animals)
  • Squirrels, including flying squirrels
  • Kangaroos*

*People often ask this as a crazy example since they’re not specifically banned. Remember, animals other than dogs, cats, and ferrets are banned by default unless explicitly allowed.

Note: Native wildlife is often illegal to have as a pet under natural resources laws, the Endangered Species Act, and similar laws, even if not listed as potentially dangerous animals under Maryland’s exotic pet laws.

Can you keep a banned exotic animal as a service animal?

Monkeys and other exotic animals are often used as service animals. Maryland law on service animals doesn’t list what animals are and aren’t allowed. The federal Americans with Disabilities Act generally only protects dogs and miniature horses.

You may be able to have a service monkey or other exotic animal on a case-by-case basis. Talk to your doctor or lawyer to see what you need to do.

What exotic animals are legal in Maryland?

The following animals are generally legal in Maryland.

  • Sugar gliders, guinea pigs, and similar pocket pets
  • Goats and sheep
  • Capybaras
  • Chinchillas
  • Axolotls
  • Hedgehogs
  • Pot-bellied pigs and other pigs
  • Tarantulas
  • Ball pythons and most other non-venomous snakes
  • Iguanas

Note: Restrictions may apply. Some city and county laws ban animals that aren’t banned under state laws.

You may also need a permit, certain size property, or to meet other requirements to hold a certain animal.

Ask a lawyer or your local government what’s allowed in your area before you acquire, breed, or sell an exotic animal.

Do you have to register your pet in Maryland?

Most counties have pet registration or licensing requirements that apply to both common pets and exotic animals. Some exotic pets also need state licenses.

You will usually need to show proof that you’re in compliance with any legal requirements on the type of pets you have, such as current rabies vaccines. These requirements depend on the type of animal.

How much is an exotic animal license in Maryland?

Licensing and permit costs vary based on the animal and where you live. They start around $10 but can be much higher for certain animals.

Do landlords have to allow exotic animals?

Landlords are generally free to ban any pets, including exotic pets. What, if any, pets are or aren’t allowed should be in the lease.

Tenants can generally have any legal pet not prohibited by the lease. Landlords generally can’t change their minds and decide not to allow pets until the current lease expires.

If a landlord believes the tenant has an illegal pet, the landlord should contact animal control. Landlords generally can’t evict for illegal pets unless the tenant is also breaking a rule in the lease.

Keep in mind that service animals are often legally protected and not subject to lease terms prohibiting pets.

What should you do if you find out your exotic pet is illegal?

If you find out your exotic pet is illegal, first find out if there are any exceptions or permits you can apply for. Keep in mind that you may face fines or other legal consequences for not complying with the law sooner.

If you can’t keep your exotic pet, you may want to give it to someone in a state where it’s legal to have that animal or an organization that’s allowed to possess it. Keep in mind that it may be illegal for you to continue to possess, transport, or sell the animal even if you intend to rehome it. If you’re stopped by a law enforcement officer or animal control officer, you could be cited for having the animal.

You may want to talk to a lawyer ASAP to get help figuring out how to handle the situation.