Massachusetts is strict with pet laws. The laws are to protect both you and the animal from harm. A veterinarian will be able to help you figure out 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.
Wildlife 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 3.05). 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
- 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.
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|
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
9See 321 CMR 9.01 for definition.
Turtles as pets
Amphibians as pets
|Amphibians you can have as a pet||Amphibians you cannot have as a pet|
Snakes as pets
|Snakes you can have as a pet||Snakes you cannot have as a pet|
Birds as pets
|Birds you can have as a pet||Birds you cannot have as a pet|
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
- Egyptian Spiny Mouse
- House Mouse
- Norway Rat
- Southern Flying Squirrel
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|
Crocodilians as pets
You cannot have any crocodilian species in your possession in Massachusetts. This includes