What exotic animals are legal to own in Tennessee?

What exotic animals are legal to own in Tennessee?

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"Snakes can grow very big. The ones you buy at the pet store are small then, but they'll quickly outgrow the enclosures that you have for them," Lisa New said. "Snakes can grow very big. The ones you buy at the pet store are small then, but they'll quickly outgrow the enclosures that you have for them," Lisa New said.
"Class one are your dangerous animals, animals that are inherently dangerous to humans like your larger primates," Carter Davis explained. "Class one are your dangerous animals, animals that are inherently dangerous to humans like your larger primates," Carter Davis explained.
Animals like bobcats fall into the class two category. Animals like bobcats fall into the class two category.
Experts say if you want to own an exotic pet like a macaw, make sure you know the law and are prepared for the commitment. Experts say if you want to own an exotic pet like a macaw, make sure you know the law and are prepared for the commitment.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Whether it's a python, a monkey or a macaw, many people look into owning exotic pets. But what animals are legal to own in Tennessee?

Michael Ogle owns 15 snakes. He bought his first when he was a teen, and he's owned one ever since.

"They have their own unique personality that you learn to love and appreciate," Ogle said.

Carter Davis, with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, says the law separates animals into five categories.

Lions, chimps, rhinos and poisonous snakes fall into class one. "Class one are your dangerous animals, animals that are inherently dangerous to humans like your larger primates," Davis explained.

These species are normally only kept at zoos and circuses.

"Class two are native wildlife which are illegal to possess, to take an animal from the wild and try and make pets out of them," Davis said.

These animals include all species native to Tennessee. Animals like chipmunks and bobcats fall into this category. You can only own these animals if you get them from a licensed breeder and have the proper documentation to import them.

According to Davis, turtles are illegal to own because of the risk of getting salmonella.

"Class three are animals that do not require any permits. It's your typical pets, llamas, rabbits, that sort of thing," he said.

Pythons and some monkeys fall into this category as well. Even though they could hurt someone, they aren't considered deadly.

Class four and class five animals require additional permits to own and are normally only allowed in zoos. These include black bears and white tail deer.

Under the five category law, many animals are legal to own in Tennessee. Experts say if you want to own an exotic pet like a macaw, make sure you know the law and you're prepared for the commitment.

Knoxville Zoo Director of Animal Collections Lisa New warns potential owners that many veterinarians won't care for exotic pets because of disease and safety concerns.

"As those primates go from cute little babies to adolescence and to adulthood, you'll see the aggression increase in the frequency of bites and scratches," New said.

She also says you need to make sure you have the money to feed the animals and the space to keep them.

"Snakes can grow very big. The ones you buy at the pet store are small then, but they'll quickly outgrow the enclosures that you have for them," New said.

Also consider how long the animals live. For example, macaws can live into their 80s.

New says don't rely on a zoo to take the animals because they often don't have extra space.

Michael Ogle says he's considered all these factors and will continue to own pythons. "Until I just can't, until I'm just too old to get up and take care of a snake, which means I'll be pretty old, I'll have a reptile as a pet," he said.

Also keep in mind, each county or city may have additional rules and regulations to follow.

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