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.
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:
DeKay's Brown Snake
Eastern Garter Snake
Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Northern Dusky Salamander
Northern Two-lined Salamander
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.
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.
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.
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.