As the holiday season approaches, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) has an important reminder to prospective exotic pet owners; Massachusetts has some of the strictest state regulations in the country governing the possession of both native and exotic wildlife by the average citizen. “Do not assume that any animal purchased in another state or through the internet is legal to possess in Massachusetts,” cautions Dr. Tom French, Assistant Director of DFW’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program. “The goal of these regulations is to protect both wildlife and people. In Massachusetts, only research entities, museums, nature centers, or educational institutions are granted permits for most kinds of wildlife. ”

Before making any purchase, consult with a veterinarian to determine what kind of animal is suitable for your abilities, lifestyle, and commitment to pet care, as well as the legal status of owning such an animal in Massachusetts. Information regarding the possession of captive or exotic wildlife in Massachusettscan be found at: www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/wildlife/living/keeping_wildlife.htm.

Dr. French recommends doing business with established and reputable Massachusetts pet shops rather than surfing the Internet, checking out Craigslist, or scanning the classifieds where sellers are not necessarily concerned with or aware of the laws that might affect potential buyers. “Store owners keep up with the laws,” he notes. “The store owners were an effective lobby for making domestic ferrets a legal pet in Massachusetts and know their livelihood depends on doing business by the book. They’ll be happy to sell you reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, and mammals that conform to state laws, and they’ll tell you if something you ask about is illegal.”

French also asks that anyone with knowledge of an illegally held wild or exotic animal to contact the Division at (508) 389-6300 on weekdays during business hours or the Environmental Police at (800) 632-8075 on any day of the week. “To avoid making a difficult situation more uncomfortable, we encourage owners with illegal wildlife to step forward and cooperate with us for the sake of the animals, ” said French. ” If animals have to be confiscated, our goal is to find the best home in the most appropriate setting for the animal’s health and well-being.”

Logo courtesy Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

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