Wildlife as pets

Massachusetts has strict laws that limit the types of animals that can be kept as pets. These laws protect people and animal from harm. A veterinarian can help you decide what kind of pet is best for you and your family. Things to consider are your lifestyle, what kind of animal can fit in your living space, and your commitment to caring for the animal. The resources on this page outline the types of animals that can be kept as pets.

Table of Contents

Animals you can take from the wild

The only animals you can take out of the wild in Massachusetts are certain reptiles and amphibians (321 CMR 9.00). You can keep these animals as personal pets, but you cannot sell, barter, or exchange them. You can have 2 of each of the following animals: 

  • American Bullfrog
  • American Toad
  • DeKay's Brown Snake
  • Eastern Garter Snake
  • Eastern Newt
  • Eastern Racer
  • Eastern Red-backed Salamander
  • Eastern Ribbonsnake
  • Fowler's Toad
  • Gray Treefrog
  • Green Frog
  • Milksnake
  • Mudpuppy
  • Northern Dusky Salamander
  • Northern Two-lined Salamander
  • Northern Watersnake
  • Painted Turtle
  • Pickerel Frog
  • Red-bellied Snake
  • Smooth Greensnake
  • Snapping Turtle
  • Spring Peeper
  • Wood Frog

Permits for wild animals

Permits in this category are issued only for certain scientific, educational, commercial, or other specific reasons. You must be able to show that you are actively engaged in the activity for which you are applying for a permit. You will not be issued a permit for keeping a wild animal as a pet. The Code of Massachusetts Regulations (321 CMR 2.12) describes these regulations in full.

Any animal listed in any rarity category of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species, any category of federal endangered species law, or listed on the Massachusetts List of Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern species may not be possessed without a permit.

Wild animals you do not need a permit for

You can keep, maintain, propagate, buy, sell, or import some wild animals without a MassWildlife permit. These animals are also exempt from most state requirements (M.G.L. Ch. 131 S. 23 and 321 CMR 9.01). In order to be exempt, the animal or group of animals have to meet the following criteria:

  • Accidental release will not adversely affect the ecology of Massachusetts.
  • The animal in captivity, or if escaped, poses no substantial danger to humans, either from injury or disease.
  • Proper care of the animal is no more demanding that the care of common domestic animals.
  • Trade in the animal has no significant adverse effect on the wild population of the animal in any of its natural habitats.

Domestic animals

Per the Code of Massachusetts Regulations (321 CMR 9.01), you can possess, propagate, maintain, import, buy, sell, and dispose of the animals and animal groups listed on this page without a MassWildlife permit or license.

In some instances, you may need to comply with local or state laws regarding dog licenses (M.G.L. Ch. 140 S. 137), municipal agriculture or zoning laws, or with requirements of the Massachusetts Department of Food & Agriculture pertaining to companion pets, livestock, and farm animals.

Domestic Birds Domestic Mammals
  • Domestic geese, ducks, and muscovy
  • Mallards1
  • Common Coturnix (Coturnix Quail)
  • Domestic Chicken
  • (Blue) Peafowl
  • Domestic Guineafowl
  • Domestic Turkey2
  • Common Pigeon (Rock Dove)
  • Emu
  • Rhea
  • Ostrich
  • Domestic Dog3
  • Mink4
  • Domestic ferrets5
  • Domestic Cat3
  • Domestic Horse
  • Domestic Swine6
  • Llama
  • Alpaca
  • Dromedary Camel
  • Domestic Water Buffalo (Carabao)
  • Domestic Cow
  • Domestic Yak
  • Zebu Cattle
  • American Bison
  • Domestic Goat and Sheep
  • Domestic (Golden) Hampster
  • Guinea Pig
  • Mongolian Gerbil
  • Domestic rabbit7
  • Domestic ass8

1Mallards must be captive-reared, acquired, and properly marked in accordance with the provisions of the Code of Federal Regulations

2Including breeds and varieties derived from Wild Turkey, but not including captive or captive-bred Wild Turkey or pen-raised or game-farm Wild Turkey.

3Wolf-dog hybrids or other hybrids between domestic dogs and any wild canine species or any feline animal which is a hybrid between a domestic cat and any wild feline species, are not domestic animals. You cannot maintain, propagate, import, buy, sell, or otherwise possess hybrids in Massachusetts (M.G.L. Ch. 131 S. 77A). Certain recognized breeds of show or pet cats, which are known to be or reputed to be of hybrid origin, are considered to be domestic and may be lawfully possessed. The Savannah Cat is considered a domestic breed only if it can be documented to be generations (F4) past the original mating with an African Serval.

4Mink must be propagated in captivity for 2 or more generations (M.G.L. Ch. 128 S. 8B).

5Domestic ferrets must be surgically neutered or spayed and rendered incapable of breeding (M.G.L. Ch. 131 S. 77).

6Does not include captive European Wild Hog or free-living wild pigs or swine.

7Does not include San Juan Rabbits.

8Includes mules, burros, and donkeys.

Fish as pets

Fish you can have as a pet Fish you cannot have as a pet

Any aquarium trade9 fish including

  • Goldfish
  • Koi (Japanese Carp)
  • Guppies
  • Fathead Minnow (requires a permit when sold as bait for fishing)
  • Any native or established fish in Massachusetts
  • Tilapia
  • Grass Carp (White Amur)
  • Piranhas & related species
  • Rudd
  • Walking Catfish & related species
  • Snakeheads
  • Bluntnose Minnow

9See 321 CMR 9.01 for definition.

Turtles as pets

Turtles you can have as a pet Turtles you cannot have as a pet
  • Painted Turtle
  • Snapping Turtle

Amphibians as pets

Amphibians you can have as a pet Amphibians you cannot have as a pet
  • American Bullfrog
  • American Toad
  • Eastern Newt
  • Eastern Red-backed Salamander
  • Fowler's Toad
  • Gray Treefrog
  • Green Frog
  • Mudpuppy
  • Northern Dusky Salamander
  • Northern Two-lined Salamander
  • Pickerel Frog
  • Spring Peeper
  • Wood Frog

Snakes as pets

Snakes you can have as a pet Snakes you cannot have as a pet
  • All species of boas & pythons (family Boidae), regardless of size, except rare species and those listed as unlawful
  • Shield-tailed snakes, sunbeam snakes, and others in families Uropeltidae and Xenopeltidae
  • Snakes of the family Colubridae:
    • Asian rat snakes (Elaphe, Ptyas, and Zaocys species)
    • Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis)
    • Brown and Redbelly snakes (Storeria species)
    • Diadem snakes (Spalerosophis species)
    • Garter and ribbon snakes (Thamnophis species)
    • Glossy snakes (Arizona species)
    • Gopher and pine snakes (Pituophis species)
    • Green snakes (Opheodrys species)
    • Ground snakes (Sonora species)
    • House snakes (Boaedon species)
    • Kingsnakes and milk snakes (Lampropeltis species)
    • North American rat snakes (Pantherophis species) except the Black Rat Snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis)
    • Mole Snake (Pseudaspis cana)
    • Puffing snakes (Pseustes species)
    • Texas Indigo Snake (Drymarchon corais erebennus)
    • Tropical rat snakes (Spilotes species)
    • Water snakes (Nerodia species)
    • Western Hognose Snake (Heterodon nasicus)

Birds as pets

Birds you can have as a pet Birds you cannot have as a pet
  • Cotorunix and Button Quail
  • Pigeons and doves, except native species
  • Waxbills and related species
  • finches and related species, except native species
  • Weaver finches, except Red-billed Dioch & related species
  • Parrots & related species
  • toucans, aracaris, & toucanets
  • Starlins & mynahs, except the Rose-colored (Pink) Starling
  • Emu, Ostrich, & Rhea

Permits may be issued for the aviculture of certain waterfowl and game birds.

Mammals as pets

You can only have the following mammals (or groups) as a pet in Massachusetts

  • Sugar Glider
  • Four-toed (African Pygmy) Hedgehog
  • Chinchilla, derived from captive stock
  • Deer Mouse
  • White-footed Mouse
  • Degu
  • Egyptian Spiny Mouse
  • House Mouse
  • Jerboas
  • Norway Rat
  • Paca
  • Southern Flying Squirrel
  • Hamster

You cannot have in your possession any mammal not listed as legal or domestic.

Lizards as pets

Lizards you can have as a pet Lizards you cannot have as a pet
  • Most skins, including Solomon Island Prehensile-tailed Tree Skink
  • False club-tailed lizards
  • Girdle-tailed lizards
  • Plated lizards
  • Rock lizards
  • Most teiid lizards, including Jungle Runners and Tegus
  • some lacertid lizards
  • Most lateral-fold lizards, alligator lizards, and legless lizards
  • All geckos except rare species and the Big Bend Gecko
  • Several iquanids including
    • Basilisks
    • Collared & leopard lizards
    • Common (Green) Iguana
    • False Iguana
    • New World chameleons (including green and brown anoles)
    • Spiny lizards
    • Tree & bush lizards
  • Some agamid lizards including
    • Water Dragon
    • Bearded Dragon
    • Frilled Lizard
    • Uromestyx
  • Most night lizards
  • Spiny-tailed (Ridge-tailed) Monitor
  • Most true chameleons
  • Beaded Lizard
  • Gila Monster
  • Any monitor lizards except the Spiny-tailed (Ridge-tailed) Monitor
  • Solomon Islands Ground Skink
  • Any lizard not listed to the left
  • Federally listed lizards

Crocodilians as pets

You cannot have any crocodilian species in your possession in Massachusetts. This includes

  • Alligators
  • Crocodiles
  • Caimans
  • Gavials

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