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What does North Carolina consider to be an 'Exotic Animal?'

As society has moved away from domestication of wild animals and more towards animal rights legislation, four states have refused to pass animal rights legislation regarding the domestication of wild and dangerous animals. North Carolina is one of these four states. Instead of passing statewide legislation regulating exotic pets, the state has allowed each county to regulate themselves.

Ok, but what IS an 'Exotic Animal?'

Over the past twenty years, there have been a few deaths and injuries at the hands (or paws) of exotic animals in North Carolina. In a previous blog post, we tackled what to do if your neighbor is a Tiger King wannabe and you’re wondering what the laws in North Carolina do to protect you. But what is considered an exotic animal in North Carolina? In this blog post, we’ll try to help explain how the state defines ‘exotic animals.’

North Carolina is the Wild West when it comes to exotic animal regulations. The county you live in largely determines how ‘exotic animals’ are defined and what you’re allowed to do with them. In some counties North Carolinians can legally own whatever animals they can humanely care for. In others, however, the laws are much stricter. Here in Mecklenburg County, exotic animals are regulated. According to a Mecklenburg County Ordinance, an exotic animal is defined as:

  1. An animal that would ordinarily be confined to a zoo, or one that would ordinarily be found in the wilderness of this or any other country;

  2. one that is a species of animal not indigenous to the United States or to North America;

  3. or one that otherwise is likely to cause a reasonable person to be fearful of significant destruction of property or of bodily harm and the latter includes, but is not limited to, monkeys, raccoons, squirrels, ocelots, bobcats, wolves, hybrid wolves, venomous reptiles, and other such animals.

  4. [Further,] [s]uch animals are further defined as being those mammals or nonvenomous reptiles weighing over 50 pounds at maturity.

This definition of exotic animals, however, this definition is not universal across the state. If you live in any other county, you likely have a different law defining the term. There have been a few attempts at state-wide regulation after members of the public have been injured or killed, but they’ve largely all failed. One bill did finally pass in 2018 which regulated ownership of certain kinds of snakes and reptiles. The Netflix phenomenon Tiger King has energized some in North Carolina to demand greater state-wide restrictions, but the General Assembly has remained relatively quiet on the subject. If you think someone in your county may be violating the laws regarding exotic animals and especially if you’ve been injured by one, contact our office today!