Dangerous animal legislation and wild animals as pets

The American Animal Hospital Association’s position regarding dangerous animal and exotic pet legislation and wild animals as pets.

The American Animal Hospital Association supports dangerous animal legislation by state, province, county, and municipal governments that provide guidelines for the management of dangerous animals, provided that legislation does not refer to specific breeds or classes of animals. Domestic animals/pets should only be classified as dangerous after a qualified veterinarian or animal behaviorist has carefully investigated all of the circumstances involving a dangerous incident, such as a dog aggression. It should be noted that while many exotic animals are sometimes classified as pets, some types are inherently dangerous. Inherently dangerous animals should be excluded as being kept as pets (some examples include wild carnivores, some reptiles, some birds, as well as some amphibia and primates.)

The American Animal Hospital Association opposes the keeping of wild animals as pets. Wild animals are those not specifically bred over many generations to adapt to human confinement, company, or control. They are normally found in the wild. When wild animals are kept as pets, the results may often be tragic for the animals and the owners. Lack of knowledge about behavioral traits, social needs, and proper nutrition of wild animals as well as inability to provide an appropriate environment that permits normal behavior often leads to inadvertent abuse and long-term suffering. Furthermore, individuals exposed to captive wild animals may contract transmissible diseases, or suffer injury or death. The capture and transport of wild animals results in the inhumane death or injury of many of the targeted animals as well as non-targeted species. Capture of wildlife intended for domestic use constitutes a significant threat to the world’s various ecosystems.

The American Animal Hospital Association, however, does not oppose the keeping of some exotic pets bred for the legal pet trade as long as they are not inherently dangerous. Exotic pets have many complicated requirements for humane care and it is necessary to establish a relationship with a veterinarian who is able to provide appropriate advice and care for the particular species. Exotic pets consist of species that are not commonly household pets, but have been bred over many generations to adapt to human confinement, company, and control, such as small rodents, some birds and others. It is strongly suggested that pet owners consult with veterinarians prior to the purchase of any pets and this is even more important with respect to exotic species.


American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA)

April D. Truitt, Founder, Primate Rescue Center, Inc., Nicholasville, KY 40356

Dangerous animal legislation position statement adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors March 1995, October 2009. Last revised June 2020.

Wild animals as pets position statement adopted by the American Animal Hospital Association Board of Directors, March 1995. Revised June 1996, November 2014. Last revised June 2020.