Richmond may ban residents from owning exotic pets

The ban would impact animals that can normally be found in the wild.
The proposed ordinance is expected to be discussed Monday at City Council’s meeting at City Hall.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 5:26 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The City of Richmond is considering banning its residents from owning exotic pets.

The ban would impact exotic animals like monkeys, raccoons, opossums, skunks, wolves, coyotes, squirrels, foxes, leopards, panthers, tigers, lions, lynxes, caracals, bobcats, bears or any other warm-blooded animal which can usually be found in the wild.

The ban would also impact any venomous or poisonous reptile, amphibian or any member of the crocodilian family, including but not limited to alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gavials.

The ordinance does not include ferrets, rabbits, chinchillas, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and rats that have been in captivity and have never known the wild. Domestically bred or legally imported birds, non-venomous reptiles, amphibians and fish are also not included.

The ordinance states in part:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to own, breed, purchase, sell, offer for purchase or sale, keep, maintain or have in such person’s possession or in such person’s control any exotic or wild animal in the city, except for zoological parks, performing animal exhibitions, circuses, wildlife rehabilitators, or veterinary clinics that are properly licensed by the federal government or state government unless that person previously has obtained a permit issued by the department for exotic or wild animals.”

City Councilmember Mike Jones told NBC12 that Richmond residents could own up to six chickens and a turkey, but not a rooster.

Jones says exotic pet owners will have to file a permit at City Hall, letting the city know who owns certain kinds of pets and where they reside.

He also says that one potential exception to the ordinance is that residents who already own venomous amphibians, fish or reptiles may be “grandfathered” in. Still, the ultimate decision would be made once they file for a permit.

“We just need citizens to be safe, residents and neighbors to be safe,” Jones said. “I’ve known people who have shipped cobras to the area, and it’s just not the safest thing to do.”

If the ordinance is adopted, anyone found guilty of owning an exotic pet will be charged with a class three misdemeanor.

People who currently own these animals would have to either give or sell them to a zoological park or release the animal to the Virginia Department of Wildlife.

The city council will not vote proposed ordinance until its June 12 meeting.