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What animals are illegal to own in Alabama?

By Monica Nakashima,


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ( WIAT ) — Do you own an illegal animal in Alabama?

Laws regarding ownership of foreign animals vary from state to state, with California having some of the strictest in the country.

While the federal government allows states to set most laws about exotic pet ownership, some regulations apply to all states. For example, the Endangered Species Act prohibits people in the United States from keeping any animal on the endangered species list as a pet.

Alabama is no exception, barring the following wildlife from being sold, possessed or imported due to their status as invasive species. Here are some of the animals that you aren’t allowed to own in Alabama and why:

Walking Catfish
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

A species of freshwater catfish native to Southeast Asia, this fish is named for its ability to “walk” and wiggle across dry land using its pectoral fins to find food. Walking catfish are regarded as an invasive species because it consumes the food supplies of native fish and prey on their young, destroying fish farms.

Giant African Snails
In this Aug. 28, 2019 photo, a rout of giant African snails gather in a corner in Havana, Cuba. With their shiny, brilliantly striped shells and bodies up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) long, the snails have become public enemy No. 1 for epidemiologists on the island as many frightened citizens grow to fear their ability to transmit diseases and harm crops. (AP Photo/Ismael Francisco)

This snail species has been considered one of the most significant in the world due to its harm to the ecosystem and humans. Giant African snails ravage agricultural crops and native plants due to their protein-heavy diet, which leads to them even damaging buildings by eating stucco, concrete and plaster.

In the wild, this species often harbors parasitic nematodes (roundworms) which can cause life-threatening meningitis in humans if eaten or handled improperly.

Argentine black and white tegu in Costanera Sur Nature Reserve in Buenos Aires. (Kevin Dyer / istock photo/ Getty Images)

Effective October 15, 2020, any species of Tegu (Genus Salvator) became prohibited under law in Alabama due to “ecological, economic, and human health and safety concerns related to potential impacts of nonnative animals.”

The amendment followed similar measures carried out in Georgia and Florida, due to tegus disrupting the livelihoods of native animals such as alligators while having no natural enemies in the Southeast.

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Piranhas are a non-native fish species in the U.S. and have few predators in the wild except humans. If introduced outside of their native range, piranhas would not only prey on native species but compete with them for food and habitat as well. Their false reputation for attacking humans is often debunked by wildlife experts.

(Photo courtesy of Pixabay)

Native to southern Europe, Africa and Asia, owning any species of the mongoose family (including meerkats) is prohibited in the U.S. They have no natural predators and are known to eat a wide variety of prey including insects, lizards, birds and rodents.

Most notably, their biology makes them resistant to venom which allows them to attack and kill venomous snakes such as cobras.

The law also applies to any of the following from any area outside the state of Alabama:

  • Any member of the family Cervidae (including but not limited to deer, elk, moose, caribou)
  • Any species of coyote, fox, raccoon, skunk or strain of wild turkey
  • Black bear
  • Mountain lion
  • Bobcat
  • Pronghorn antelope
  • Any nondomestic member of the families Suidae (pigs), Tayassuidae (peccaries), or Bovidae (except bison)

Any species of bird, mammal, reptile or amphibian listed as injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is also prohibited under law.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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