Is It Legal to Have a Pet Raccoon?

If you’re looking to have a pet raccoon, there are a few state laws and regulations you should know.

Raccoons are considered exotic animals, which makes it quite hard to own one unless you live in a state that allows keeping them as pets.

Residents living in specific states are allowed to have pet raccoons, with each state having state and local regulations for anyone owning or planning to keep a raccoon as a pet.

For example, North Carolina residents must get the approval of a veterinarian before it’s brought into the state while the state of Arkansas only allows keeping a maximum of five raccoons at a time.

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Is It Legal to Have a Pet Raccoon

It is legal to have a pet raccoon in only 16 states in America, and most of these states require one to acquire a wild animal permit. There are additional state regulations raccoon owners must follow along with precautionary measures in the event the raccoon becomes problematic, such as euthanizing.

You can have a pet raccoon in the following states, but be sure to check their respective state and local laws and requirements before you bring one into your home:

  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Wyoming
  • Indiana
  • Nebraska
  • Arkansas
  • Virginia
  • Oklahoma
  • Michigan
  • Delaware
  • Wisconsin
  • Rhode Island
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina

Do raccoons make good pets?

Raccoons can be a lot like ferrets and puppies: affectionate and playful. They are also intelligent animals with incredible memories and problem-solving abilities.

However, raccoons can be unpredictable and mischievous, which explains the need to only have a domesticated or rehabilitated raccoon as a pet.

They also need a lot of space to play, explore, climb, and be free just like in the wild. Keeping them in small cages or rooms should be out of the question.

Sometimes a domesticated raccoon can still be destructive, and you might find them chewing bed sheets, and clothing, and scratching furniture.

While having a pet raccoon is legal in a few states, it is a big commitment because these wild animals will definitely demand a lot of your attention and care.

Here’s a comprehensive article explaining why raccoons do not make good pets.

Common pet raccoon problems

Keeping a raccoon as a pet will be no mean challenge. The most common issues you will experience include:

1. Unpredictable temperaments

Raccoons can be aggressive and might even bite anyone, including family members, strangers, and other pets. However, some can be friendly and curious with people while others can be skittish and will probably flee when they see someone approaching.

2. Disease carriers

Raccoons can carry rabies, a disease that currently doesn’t have a vaccine. They can also carry and transmit leptospirosis, distemper, Salmonella, and parasites such as fleas to humans.

Different states have procedures to follow in case a raccoon scratches or bites a person. In Texas, it is illegal to transport any animal that is “a high risk of transmitting rabies” including fox, skunk, coyote, or raccoon.

3. Difficulties finding care

Finding a veterinarian specializing in raccoon care is very difficult even in states that allow keeping them as pets. You should ensure there is a local veterinarian with knowledge and expertise in exotic pets, including raccoons.

There are instances when you cannot board a raccoon just like you might with a cat or dog due to state or local regulations. That’s when hiring a professional to take care of your pet’s needs while you’re gone becomes a necessity.

4. Mischievous nature

Keeping raccoons out of areas they shouldn’t access or things they could touch can be a real task. These animals can use their paws to open doors, unscrew lids, and do other tasks that most other pets cannot.

How to care for a pet raccoon

If it is legal to have a pet raccoon in your state, you need to find a reputable raccoon breeder who specializes in breeding domestic raccoons. Bringing wild raccoons into your home is a recipe for disaster for you, your family members, and the pet.

Set aside a spacious enclosure for your raccoon where they can roam and play freely. An outdoor enclosure with a closed top will grant your pet enough space to play without the risk of them wandering off. Make sure there are things they can climb and enough toys to engage their natural instincts. 

If your raccoon will be an indoor pet then you’ll need to train him/her to use a litter box and make sure they have a spacious room. You should proceed to child-proof your home because raccoons can get into everything.

In terms of diet, raccoons eat both plants and meat. They can eat fish, poultry, vegetables, and fruits. You can also give them complete dog food once they are old enough. Ensure there is a shallow water dish in the enclosure or their room as they love to dip their food in water before eating.

Safety concerns with pet raccoons

Raccoons are primary carriers of rabies and the common symptoms you should look out for include:

  • Erratic wandering
  • Staggered walk
  • Being unresponsive to noise or movements
  • Oral and ocular discharge
  • Repeated high-pitched vocalization
  • Wet and matter hair on the face

You should call your local veterinarian the moment you spot your raccoon presenting any of these symptoms.

Apart from the potential of transmitting rabies, they can sometimes bite or scratch even when unprovoked, which makes them dangerous to family members and other pets.

Pet Raccoon FAQs

Here we answer a few FAQs about pet raccoons.

1. How much does a raccoon cost?

Raccoons cost anywhere between $300 and $700 on average. The prices depend on the time of the year, the age of the raccoon, and its color. The best time to transport them is at dusk because they are primarily nocturnal and can get confused and vulnerable if transported during the day.

2. Are raccoons friendly to humans?

Raccoons that have been domesticated since birth tend to become quite cuddly and playful at times. However, they are often quick to bite even when unprovoked. They can also be aggressive if they are annoyed or scared.

3. Are raccoons dangerous to humans?

Undomesticated and unrehabilitated raccoons can be dangerous to humans. Apart from being aggressive and attack-minded, wild raccoons are likely to be carriers of rabies and other diseases that can be passed onto humans through scratches, bites, or even touch. A female raccoon can attack humans if she deems one to be a threat to her babies.

4. Are raccoons dangerous to cats?

Yes, raccoons can be dangerous to cats and kittens. The aggressive nature of cats and raccoons can lead to backyard standoffs and fights over food and territorial disputes. Raccoons can even kill and eat a cat. Raccoons also carry parasites and diseases that can be passed on to your feline friend.

5. Are raccoons dangerous to dogs?

Yes, raccoons can be dangerous to dogs and puppies. They are aggressive and when they fight they know where to bite and scratch to inflict maximum damage. Raccoons are also carriers of parasites and diseases that can be passed on to dogs. It’s advisable to keep the two apart.

Final thoughts

While it is legal to have a pet raccoon in 16 states in America, you should be careful because they can be aggressive and dangerous. Raccoons can scratch and bite for no reason and are carriers of rabies and other parasites. Always check state and local laws to know if it is legal to have a pet raccoon in your home.

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