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Tilting the Scales Business Issues with a Legal Slant

Animal House – Can You Own Exotic Animals?

Posted in Property Issues

man with tiger

Phil Elliott, wide receiver for the North Dallas Bulls, posts a photograph on Instagram showing his new pet tiger hanging out in his backyard in Preston Hollow.  His post goes viral and becomes a hot news topic.  The next day, PETA claims Elliott’s tiger is illegal and requests the Dallas Police Department seize the tiger.  Can Elliott shake PETA’s attack?

Exotic Animal Regulations Across the Country.

The ability to own exotic pets varies across the country.  At least 14 states ban private individual citizens from owning exotic animals as pets.   Approximately 14 more states have some sort of licensing scheme requiring the owner to register the animal.  Other states have regulations covering the ownership of exotic animals, but do not require registration or may not have enforcement provisions.  This is a great summary of each state’s laws concerning exotic animals.

Texas’ Permit Requirements for Exotic Animals.

Texas prohibits private individuals from owning or having custody of a “dangerous wild animal” – such as a lion, tiger or bear[1]unless the person has a certificate of registration from either the city or county animal control department, or from the county sheriff if the county does not have an animal control department.  The registration certificate must be renewed annually.  The owner must also have at least $100,000 liability insurance coverage for the animal.  Additionally, the owner must immediately notify the animal control department or the sheriff if the animal escapes or attacks a human.

The failure to register a wild animal is a Class C misdemeanor for each day the animal is not registered.  This means the owner could be punished with a fine of $500 for each day.  Additionally, the city or county where the person keeps the wild animal may sue the owner and recover a civil penalty between $200 and $2,000 per day, plus attorney’s fees.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

Pets can be expensive, but exotic pets can be even more expensive if you fail to follow the rules.  So before you buy the cute capuchin monkey for your kids or significant other, make sure you take care of the paperwork to avoid any potential legal trouble.

[1] The Texas statute contains a defined, exclusive list of “dangerous wild animals.”