Is Owning a Pet Raccoon Legal?
Raccoons are cute, clever animals that can make fun and enjoyable pets. However, before deciding to get a pet raccoon, it’s essential to understand the legal restrictions around owning raccoons and the challenges of properly caring for them.
Laws Regarding Raccoon Ownership
- In the United States, laws regarding exotic pet ownership vary from state to state. In some states, it is illegal to keep raccoons as pets. In others, a permit is required. And in some states, raccoon ownership is unrestricted. So check your state’s exotic animal ownership laws before getting a pet raccoon. If you are wondering “where can I legally own a raccoon?”, you’ll need to research the specific laws in your state.
- In Canada, raccoons are designated as a rabies vector species, which means you cannot legally keep a raccoon as a pet anywhere in Canada.
- In the UK and Europe, raccoons are considered invasive exotic species and cannot be legally owned as pets.
Why Raccoon Ownership is Restricted
There are a few reasons why raccoon ownership is heavily restricted or banned:
- Rabies risk – Raccoons are highly susceptible to rabies. Rabid raccoons can transmit the disease to humans through bites and scratches. To reduce this public health risk, many areas restrict raccoon ownership.
- Property damage – Raccoons have dexterous paws and great intelligence. When bored or lonely, they can become destructive and cause considerable damage to homes. Restricting raccoon ownership reduces this risk.
- Invasiveness – Raccoons are opportunistic omnivores and can adapt to many ecosystems. If released or escaped, they threaten to become an invasive pest species that disrupts native ecosystems. Preventing ownership helps control this risk.
Are Raccoons Good Pets?
While raccoons are cute and can potentially bond with their owners, they make challenging pets that are not a good fit for most people. Here are some of the key considerations:
Raccoons are wild animals, not domesticated pets. Even a raccoon raised from infancy retains its wild instincts and behaviors. This makes raccoons unpredictable and difficult to train.
Raccoons are extremely curious, dexterous, and intelligent. Raccoons frequently become bored and destructive when confined inside a home, causing considerable damage. Their sharp claws allow them to tear into walls and furniture more quickly.
While non-rabid raccoons seldom attack humans intentionally, they can be aggressive toward other pets or unfamiliar humans. Raccoons have sharp teeth and claws capable of seriously injuring a person or pet.
In areas where raccoon ownership is heavily restricted or illegal, you may have great difficulty finding a vet willing to provide medical care to a pet raccoon. Lack of access to veterinary care is a major impediment to keeping a raccoon as a pet.
Need for Space
Raccoons are energetic and need a very large secure space to climb, run, and play. They can quickly become bored and destructive if confined to a small indoor area. But allowing them to roam your home also carries risks.
Raccoons habitually rip things apart, chew, scatter trash, and make other messes. Even when provided with litter boxes, most raccoons will not be fastidiously neat pets. The needs for cleaning and supervision are demanding.
Between specialized foods, housing, toys, veterinary costs, damage, and more, the cumulative costs of raising a pet raccoon are quite high over its long lifespan. Be sure you can handle this financial burden before getting a pet raccoon.
Proper Care for Pet Raccoons
While ownership is inadvisable for most people, caring for a pet raccoon takes extensive time, resources, and dedication:
- Large secure outdoor enclosure for playing and exercising
- Reinforced indoor area that cannot be easily damaged
- Access to a pool or body of water for washing food
- Climbing platforms and structures
- Den area for sleeping
- Species appropriate omnivore diet with fruits, vegetables, proteins, etc.
- Fresh clean water must be available at all times
- Food enrichment puzzles rather than free feeding
- Handling only after establishing trust over many weeks
- Thick protective gloves should be used when handling
- Never directly interact with a rabies-vector species like raccoons
- Spot clean enclosure for waste daily
- Full cleans weekly
- Be prepared for raccoons making mess everywhere
Exercise & Enrichment
- At least 4 hours of play and activity outside enclosure each day
- Puzzle feeders and treat dispensers
- Provide toys they can tear apart safely
- Interaction with humans must be regular for socialization
- Wellness exams every 6 months
- Up to date on all appropriate vaccinations
- Emergency care for any injuries or illness
The Bottom Line
While cute and clever, raccoons are not good pets for most households. Their care requires expertise, time, space, and money that many people do not have. Furthermore, legal restrictions govern raccoon ownership in many areas. Owning a pet raccoon should only be done with the utmost care and consideration. Most people think it’s better to admire these handsome masked creatures from a distance in the wild!