May 12, 2021
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK — Arkansans who have not updated or obtained their permits for owning, breeding or dealing certain captive wildlife species have until July 1 to submit their application. This includes any first-time permittees who may not have all the proper documentation usually required to obtain these permits. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is working with these customers to get them into compliance. Additionally, owners of venomous reptiles also must submit an application for a new Venomous Reptile Permit no later than July 1.
As a general rule, non-domesticated wildlife species do not make good pets, but just about every Arkansan knows of someone that may have had a pet raccoon, squirrel, opossum or other non-traditional pet at one time. At some point, people have had the desire to possess everything from anteaters to zebras, but doing so can come with risks well-intentioned individuals may not realize.
“Some species could cause harm to people if not contained or cared for properly, while others could possibly carry diseases that could decimate native wildlife populations if they or any equipment used to handle them is exposed to native habitat,” Ashley Grimsley-Padron, AGFC captive wildlife program coordinator, said. “Still others that escape or get released could become invasive and cause harm to native wildlife.”
For these reasons and many others, all non-domestic animal species are classified as wildlife in Arkansas, whether they are native or exotic, free-ranging or captive-born. Many non-traditional pet species fall within this category of wildlife, which places responsibility for their oversight with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
During the last two years, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff have evaluated and updated many regulations concerning the possession, breeding and sale of non-domestic pets. Biologists and the state wildlife veterinarian evaluated many species for risk to Arkansas, and continued to update its list of captive wildlife species. These changes made it possible to breed, sell and import many species without permits, however other species require more oversight. Before the captive wildlife regulations overhaul in February 2019, most wildlife imported, bred or sold required a Wildlife Importation and Wildlife Breeder/Dealer permit.
“We have sought input from organizations and individuals throughout the regulation process, and will continue to do so,” Matthew Warriner, AGFC assistant chief of wildlife management, said. “Some species do pose enough risk to people and native wildlife if they are improperly kept that we do require a permitting process to help prevent issues that may arise from escape or disease transmission.”
Captive wildlife species in Arkansas fall under one of three categories, based on their potential risk to human health and the health of native wildlife:
Unrestricted species may be possessed without a permit and may be imported, bred or sold without importation permits or breeder/dealer permits issued from the AGFC. Many of the common exotic pets found at pet stores are on this list.
Permitted species may only be imported, bred or sold in accordance with Codes 9.07 (Wildlife Breeder/Dealer Permit) and 9.10 (Wildlife Importation Permit). These species could present a danger to people, domestic animals or native wildlife should they escape captivity.
Prohibited species are those species which pose an extreme risk to humans, domestic animals or native wildlife or those species that collection from the wild could contribute to declines or extinctions within their native range, both in Arkansas and abroad. Breeding, sale and importation of these species is not allowed and no permits will be issued by the AGFC other than for special circumstances such as accredited zoos and raptor propagators permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Complete and up-to-date species lists are available at www.agfc.com/en/wildlife-management/captive-wildlife/species-lists.
As part of the new regulations, the AGFC is allowing those Arkansans who wish to possess, breed or sell certain wildlife to apply for required permits even if they do not have all the proper documentation normally required.
“We want to give people the opportunity to get into compliance with the regulations but we need to make sure we continue to protect Arkansans and our natural resources,” Warriner said.
The new Venomous Reptile Permit also is an effort to allow owners of medically significant venomous reptiles to continue to own their pets while again protecting the interest of the general public.
Applications, fact sheets and species lists concerning captive wildlife are available at www.agfc.com/en/wildlife-management/captive-wildlife.
Kangaroo image courtesy Connor Slade, Creative Commons.