Where Is It Legal to Own a Raccoon?

You hear of owning a dog, a cat, some people even own rats and parrots, but have you ever heard of owning a raccoon?

And is owning something as exotic as a raccoon legal? It may seem like a strange idea to some but there are many people out there who either want to own or already own a raccoon.

If you are wanting to know more about what is needed to consider owning this pet and the laws surrounding it, this will supply you with all the answers.

The Raccoon

Raccoons are best known for their furry grey bodies and black mask-like features around their eyes. They are wild animals, only coming out at night due to being nocturnal, and can be dangerous if approached the wrong way.

However, their enticing features make people start seeing these animals as potential pets. Does this make them more than wild animals?

Although not too common, having a raccoon as a pet is possible and has been done by many. This, in turn, leads to some controversy.

The raccoon’s appearance lead people to turn a blind eye on the animal’s characteristics. They will always be a wild animal, and many are very against the adoption of the raccoon.

People believe it to be unethical as wild animals should be out in the open in their natural habitat, it also known that not many vets work with raccoons, and they can also carry all sorts of diseases (a raccoon’s droppings can contain roundworm which is infectious to even humans).

It is clear that much hard work goes into taking care of a raccoon and due to many factors, the needs of the raccoon cannot always be met.

Do Raccoons Make Good Pets?

It is all dependent on the raccoon’s owner. It is not impossible to own a raccoon – exotic animals are kept as pets all the time.

It is important to know the traits of the raccoon to understand what you are getting yourself into as an owner. The raccoon does not make a bad pet, however, the raccoon can be hard work.

As previously mentioned, these wild animals are mischievous by nature; it is often you’d find the wild raccoon roaming around in your trash late at night or stealing food. It is only to be expected with keeping them as a pet.

Despite this, raccoons are very intelligent creatures and are great problem solvers. They can also be great fun – once your raccoon has been domesticated you will find they are very playful.

But beware of the negatives which come with owning a raccoon. Raccoons, domesticated or not, are prone to biting (and they will bite anything from their family to other animals).

Again, this varies. Some raccoons are friendly whilst others will take whatever chance they have to flee. As well as this, you have to recognize that raccoons are one of the largest spreaders of disease, most commonly rabies.

It is easy for a raccoon to convert back to their natural instincts, if they feel threatened for example, and scratch someone.

This is a dangerous risk as there is no known certified vaccination for rabies in place yet. This is only one example of the many diseases they have.

How To Take Care Of Your Raccoon

There are a number of steps to taking care of your raccoon the correct way. This is important so that your raccoon can stay comfortable and is in an environment appropriate to its species.

Enclosure

Be sure to provide your raccoon with a suitable living space. This animal needs both an indoor and outdoor enclosure as to provide it with more space to roam.

Raccoons enjoy exploring their surroundings, so it is important to provide them with somewhere spacious. Living indoors, a large dog crate with a lot of space will work well for the raccoon for in the short term.

For long term, however, you will need to make sure that you have enough room to create a large and spacious living space for your new pet.

Place various climbing frames – raccoons like to climb and it is important that you surround it with familiarities to engage its instincts.

Food

Know what you are feeding your raccoon. The basic diet of a raccoon consists of both poultry and plants.

You should learn how much is the right amount to feed them; as raccoons grow older, you should begin to limit their food intake accordingly.

Legality

With the possession of a raccoon, the law changes and this is because they are considered exotic animals.

An exotic animal is defined as an animal which is extremely rare to be kept as a pet, most commonly thought of as a wild species above an indoor house pet.

Raccoons are made for the outdoors and, even as a pet, can cause the same mischief as they would in the wild. They can be as playful as a puppy, but they can also be unpredictable.

They enjoy climbing, exploring, and can be destructive. It shouldn’t come by as too much of a surprise if you find them eating your couch and knocking ornaments over.

Owning a raccoon is not completely practical and with animals made for the wild it is in the state’s best interest to keep it that way.

This is all down to the health and safety of the citizens, and it is safer for all to keep the two separate. That is why laws are put into place.

Despite all of the risks and safety protocols, however, still 14 states allow raccoons to be kept as pets, so long as:

  • The owning of a raccoon has been approved by a veterinarian
  • The owner has a wild animal permit

Although there are some that allow the ownership of a raccoon, the majority of the states deem this illegal. Only in 14 of 50 states are you allowed to keep a raccoon as a pet. These states are:

  • Texas
  • Wisconsin
  • Delaware
  • Rhode Island
  • Indiana
  • Arkansas
  • Wyoming
  • Nebraska
  • Florida
  • Michigan
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • West Virginia
  • Oklahoma

However, even though there are laws against the ownership of raccoons, those laws do not necessarily apply to all exotic animals.

In most states, it is only the possession of certain species that are banned, not every exotic animal. For example, in South Dakota, although bears are allowed to be kept on private property in your home, pigs are prohibited.

The laws are all dependent on the area you are living and the values that state holds. Before thinking about owning a raccoon, it is important to do your thorough research into which states allow this.

Exceptions in the Law

In some cases, there are exceptions when it comes to owning an exotic animal like a raccoon, even in states that forbid them.

One reason for exception is that these wild animals are not kept as home pets but as animals for exhibitions or to be used for educational purposes.

The owner also may be able to get away with owning an exotic pet if they were granted ownership before laws were put in place. However, for many animal activists out there this isn’t accepted well.

Zoos

Zoos are the number one establishment for wild animals however this isn’t only for the big and known zoos, this also counts for the underground privately owned ones which require no training with wild animals.

One example is the former Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, owned by Joseph Passage. Formal training and experience with animal handling should be taken into consideration before handling any form of wild animal, however it is not always that these factors are thoroughly checked.

This isn’t only important for the sake of the animals’ wellbeing, but for the safety of the public.

Circuses

Other exceptions in which exotic animals are allowed are in circuses. Although this is a topic which is highly controversial and frowned upon, there are still many states that have not put law into action.

Circuses may choose on their own to not use wild animals for entertainment or may be told not to continue with such acts, but there is no solid law to prevent circuses from doing so.

They are rare, however. Only in a few states including California, New York, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Illinois have they created a law banning the use of animals for entertainment in circuses.

Research Centers

It is known that animals are used for research such as for finding the answer to diseases like cancer. These animals can range from rats (hence the phrase lab rats) to monkeys.

Local Law

Local law is also a thing and is something that people look past. Additional restrictions for owning a raccoon could easily be put in place as well as additional permits.

Permits are required by law when possessing any exotic animal. Failure to attain a permit can lead to a fine as well as the removal of your animal.

As well as this, you will not be able to have your wild pet taken care of by a vet if these permits are not provided. Especially for a raccoon who are notoriously known to be riddled with disease, it is essential that the owner is able to take care of it in the best way possible.

Why Are Raccoons Illegal?

Raccoons are illegal in the majority of states not only for the unethicalness of possessing an exotic animal, but for the wellbeing of the public.

Raccoons are intelligent therefore can be trained as a domestic pet, however if that raccoon was to leave that place it calls home, it can be a danger for the rest of the surrounding public.

They carry diseases which are harmful to both humans and other domesticated pets such as dogs and cats. As well as this, if your pet raccoon was to get lost and find itself having to live with other raccoons in the wild, they will more than likely not live a long life.

Having been raised to live a domesticated life, throwing itself back into the wild will not be good for it. It wouldn’t know how to protect itself, scavenge, get used to the changed environment and climate. All raccoons are vicious, but a wild raccoon can be much more dangerous than a domesticated one.

Final Thoughts

Although in most states the domesticated raccoon is illegal (especially wild raccoons which you try to domesticate), that is not to say that you cannot and should not own a raccoon.

It has been done by many, but those people raising their raccoons know how to do so in the most responsible way. They understand their dietary needs, the dangers, the potential for disease, and their mischievousness.

It is important to acknowledge that your raccoon, even though it is domesticated, is a wild animal at heart. They can be dangerous, vicious, they can bite. But they can also be playful and fun to be around. Overall, they are unpredictable.

It is important to put the lives of your family, friends, and neighbors before the raccoon and this is done by looking after it responsibly.

Make sure that you are keeping it in a safe and enclosed area, large enough for it to have a lot of roaming space and filled with things for it to climb on and stay active. Avoid letting it roam free on the streets – you don’t know what it can do.

The most important thing to acknowledge when owning a raccoon is to remember that its home is the wild. Allow your raccoon to feel like it is in the wild with plenty of space, company, places to explore. You do not want your raccoon to feel trapped and uncomfortable.

This kind of pet is different to your casual dog. They need to be treated differently and accordingly to their species.

Not all states condone the upbringing of exotic animals. Make sure that before taking that opportunity to buy an exotic pet you do your thorough research. It is important to abide by the law for the benefit of yourself and the raccoon.