NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – There is nothing like owning a pet. However, with some celebrities and cultural icons owning exotic animals to show a form of status, it’s no wonder some people are curious about which exotic animals they can have as pets.
The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has a 27-page list of animals that are legal and illegal to own. The animals are put into one of four “importation” groups:
Group I – for semi-domesticated animals not requiring a permit.
Group II – live non-domesticated animals that are not known to be either invasive or dangerous and don’t exhibit a known risk to the health, safety, or well-being of the public, native wildlife, livestock, or habitats.
Group III – live non-domesticated animals presenting minimal or manageable concerns that require specific provisions that must be met prior to issuing an importation permit to address the health, safety, or well-being of the public, native wildlife, livestock, or habitats.
Group IV – live non-domesticated animals considered dangerous, invasive, undesirable, state or federally listed as threatened, endangered, a furbearer, or any other species of concern as identified by the director. Importation of Group IV species is prohibited to the general public but may be allowed for scientific study, restoration and recovery plans approved by Game and Fish, zoological display, temporary events or entertainment, use as a service animal, or by a qualified expert.
Tigers are illegal to own in New Mexico, they are a Group IV animal and federally endangered. And it’s not just tigers, pretty much every wild cat is listed as a Group IV on the list. Meaning, servals, oryxes, panthers, cheetahs, and ocelots are illegal to own in New Mexico. Also, elephants, zebras, kangaroos, monkeys, and rhinoceroses are Group IVs as well.
What happens if someone is caught with a Group IV animal in their home? Officials with New Mexico Game and Fish say it is a full misdemeanor crime you could serve up to 364 days in jail and pay up to a $1,000 fine.
People can own waterfowl like geese, swans, and ducks, but they will need a permit. However, there are some ducks that are illegal to own like Hawaiian, Laysan, and pink-headed. Those birds are federally endangered.
If you’re looking to keep a bat as a pet, you’ll need to be very specific. Only the broad-nosed bat is allowed with a permit; all others are Group IVs.
Some other animals you can own include:
- Short tail opossum
- Sugar Glider
- Northwestern salamanders
- Jefferson salamanders
- Blue-spotted salamanders
- Hog Isle Boa Constrictor
- Central American Boa Constrictor
Also to note, crocodiles or alligators are illegal to own in New Mexico. All venomous species of snake, mole viper, stiletto snake, or burrowing asp are prohibited as well.
For animals not found in the Game and Fish list, like koalas or hippopotamuses, officials say they are to be designated as a Group IV animal until another determination is made by the Game and Fish director. The entire list is available on the NM Game and Fish website.