Pets and Animals

Cute and cuddly? NC has no laws preventing ownership of exotic pets

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - It might surprise some to learn that North Carolina does not have laws to prevent people from keeping exotic animals as pets.

“The issue is they're cute and cuddly when they’re small, and when they reach sexual maturity, they become really aggressive, and people find themselves in a lot of trouble,” said Katie Cannon, Education Director at Carolina Tiger Rescue in Pittsboro.

Cannon said it’s more common than some may think. 

“In the United States, it’s estimated there are 10,000 tigers,” Cannon sad. “There’s 3,800 of them left in the wild. Of that 10,000, it’s estimated that 95-96% of them are in the hands of private owners, roadside zoos, or in the entertainment industry.”


Just last week, a couple from Asheville brought in their kinkajou named Baxter. The couple bought Baxter in 2011, but recently, the wild animal became dangerous.

“That morning, when they were crating him to bring him to us, he bit the wife on the finger and she was bleeding when she came to us,” Cannon said. “It wasn’t terrible, but just proved he is not an appropriate animal to have as a pet.”

Cannon said the internet has made it easier than ever to get your hands on an exotic pet.

Just a quick search turned up all kinds of big cats, marmoset monkeys, and porcupines — sometimes for less than $1,000.

“They’re wild animals, and often what we try to help people understand [is] you can’t love the wild out of them,” Cannon said.

She said some counties in North Carolina have passed exotic animal laws, but there are many with no regulations. She said it took a tragedy for Wake County to make a change.

“At least over 10 years ago, there was a man in Apex who had a pet tiger in his backyard, and at the time, his 3-year-old son was mauled by that tiger. Luckily, the son survived.”

Cannon said anyone in over their head with an exotic animal can contact the rescue at 919-542-4684 because they can help.


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