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Delaware Department of
Agriculture

Exotic Animals



What is an exotic animal?


young woman holding ball python snakeExotic means a live wild mammal, hybrid of a wild mammal, and/or a live reptile not native to or generally found in Delaware. An exotic animal is ecologically foreign to Delaware. Exotic pets can be unique and wonderful additions to your household. Most species of exotic animals are regulated in Delaware, because they may pose a health or ecological threat to Delaware.

Any Delaware resident wishing to own an exotic animal must apply to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section for an exotic animal permit.

 

Frequently Asked Questions


If you want to own an exotic animal, you should review the information below to find out how to proceed.

If yes, the species is regulated by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and are prohibited from be owned as a pet.

  • Exemption: Certain species of native snakes may be owned with a permit if they are captive-bred and a non-native color variation. The snakes do require a permit, issued through the exotic program at the Delaware Department of Agriculture.
  • Note: Red Ear Sliders are a non-native invasive species. They are sometimes mistaken as being native, because they are so common in the wild. Since they are non-native, they require a permit.

For more information regarding native species or to clarify the classification of a particular species, please contact DNREC’s Fish & Wildlife Division at 302-739-9910.

A general list of exempt exotics is available below from the Delaware Department of Agriculture. Exempt exotics are not regulated by the state of Delaware and may be purchased and owned without a permit. However, certain counties, cities, and towns may have separate regulations regarding the ownership of these animals.  If the animal is not on the list, it requires a permit.

  • Hamsters
  • Gerbils
  • Mice
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Possums
  • Rats
  • Ferrets
  • Chinchillas
  • Sugar Gliders
  • Hedgehogs
  • Chameleons
  • Iguanas
  • Agamas
  • Skinks
  • Bearded Dragons
  • Asian Water Dragons
  • Basilisks
  • Tegu
  • Geckos
  • Swifts

Note: All birds and fish are exempt from the permitting process.

For more information regarding exotic regulations or to clarify the classification of a particular species, please contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture Poultry and Animal Health Section at (302) 698-4561.

Each county has a separate set of regulations regarding the ownership of exotic pets. Additionally, many towns have restrictions on particular species. It is the responsibility of the owner to determine whether the animal is allowed at their location. This involves reviewing the county code and calling your county and town planning and zoning departments.

The following is for informational purposes only to assist you in applying for an exotic animal permit. Check with your local jurisdiction for any updates to their laws and regulations.

New Castle County

New Castle County Department of Land Use
Government Center
87 Reads Way
New Castle, DE 19720
Telephone: 302-395-5555
Fax: 302-395-5545
Email: LandUse@nccde.org
Website

If you reside in an unincorporated area of New Castle County, please call Department of Land Use for any questions regarding ordinances pertaining to ownership of exotic animals. If you pay city taxes, you fall under the jurisdiction of the city in which you live; contact your City Hall to inquire about city ordinances prohibiting ownership of an exotic animal.

New Castle County Code

Definitions:

Exotic animal means wild mammals or hybrids of wild mammals (mammals whose parents are different varieties of the same species or belong to different but closely allied species, one (1) parent being a wild mammal not native to or generally found in Delaware and the other parent being a domestic mammal native to or generally found in Delaware) or live reptiles not native to or generally found in the State of Delaware (as determined by the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Division of Fish and Wildlife), as defined by the State pursuant to 3 Del. C. Ch. 72 (Possession of Mammals or Reptiles Exotic to Delaware), for which permits are required by the State pursuant to that Chapter.

Wild animal means any live monkey (nonhuman primate), raccoon, skunk, fox, poisonous snake, boa, python, leopard, panther, tiger, wolf, lion, lynx or any other warm-blooded animal which can normally be found in the wild state, or any hybrid (animal whose parents are different varieties of the same species or belong to different but closely allied species, one (1) parent being a wild animal and the other parent being a domesticated animal) of any of the animals listed in this Section or of any other warm-blooded animals which can normally be found in the wild state.

Sec. 4.02.004. – Prohibited animals in certain residential areas.

  1. It shall be unlawful for any owner, tenant or other person in control of a property to raise, breed, keep, shelter or harbor any cattle, poultry, sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, waterfowl, guinea hens, chickens, turkeys, donkeys, quail, doves, llamas, raccoons, muskrats, nondomesticated mammals, game fowl, pigeons, pheasants, peacocks, foxes, minks, exotic animals, wild animals, game animals and other like animals on a parcel of land which is less than one (1) acre in total area and located in any residentially zoned district, a diversified planned unit development or an MM zoned district.
  2. This Section shall not apply to the keeping, sheltering or harboring of animals in connection with bona fide educational programs run or overseen by a public or private elementary, middle or secondary school or a college or university or the Delaware Cooperative Extension Education Program, the 4-H or the Newark Pigeon Club, Wilmington Homing Club or Delmarva Pigeon Club. Participation in the educational programs or pigeon clubs listed shall constitute an affirmative defense.
  3. This Section shall not apply to the keeping, sheltering or harboring of horses.
  4. Any person convicted of a violation of this Section shall be subject to punishment as provided in Section 1.01.009.
  5. The County Complaints Department is charged with the responsibility of enforcing this Section.
    (Code 1983, § 3A-6; Code 1995, § 4-29; Ord. No. 97-038, § 2, 7-22-1997; Ord. No. 10-113, § 1(Exh. A), 1-18-2011)

Kent County

Kent County Department of Planning Services: Division of Planning
555 Bay Road
Dover, DE 19901
Telephone: 302-744-22471
Fax: 302-736-2128
Email: planning@co.kent.de.us
Website

If you reside in an unincorporated area of Kent County, please call Division of Planning for any questions regarding ordinances pertaining to ownership of exotic animals. If you pay city taxes, you fall under the jurisdiction of the city in which you live; contact your City Hall to inquire about city ordinances prohibiting ownership of an exotic animal.

Definitions

Dangerous animals means any mammal, amphibian, reptile or arachnid that, because of its size, nature or other characteristic(s), would constitute a danger to human life or property if it escaped from secure quarters. Such animals shall include but not be limited to alligators, bears, boids (constrictor snakes), caimans, crocodiles, felids, gavials, nonhuman primates, wolves and any poisonous amphibian, reptile or arachnid. The term shall not include livestock or any domestic cat or dog.
[Added 4-11-2000 by Ord. No. 00-12]

Kent County Delaware Code: § 205-43.1. Keeping of dangerous animals. [Added 4-11-2000 by Ord. No. 00-12]

  1. It shall be unlawful for any person to be in possession of any dangerous animal(s) within the unincorporated area of Kent County. The purpose of this section is to protect the health, safety and welfare of persons and property within Kent County’s jurisdiction. These animals are incapable of adapting to human companionship and their possession by individuals as pets has proven to be a menace to emergency personnel, including firemen, police officers and utility workers, as well as the general public.
  2.  Exemptions.
    (1) This provision shall not apply to a property/person legally constituted (permitted), such as a zoological park, licensed wildlife rehabilitator, licensed veterinarian, bona fide educational or medical institution, animal shelter as defined by 7 Del. C. § 1701 or any traveling circus, carnival or exhibit.
    (2) Any person keeping, maintaining or possessing a dangerous animal that is exotic to Delaware on the effective date of this section may continue to possess said animal provided that the person does not breed or attempt to breed said animal; the person obtains a permit under 3 Del. C. § 7201 for said animal within 30 days of the effective date of this law from the Department of Agriculture; and the person does not obtain any additional dangerous animals.
  3. Enforcement.
    (1) Any agent of the Kent County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals may impound an animal kept, maintained or possessed in apparent violation of this section. The Kent County Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals may dispose of this animal in accordance with 3 Del. C. Chapter 80.
    (2) Violation of any provision of this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than$1,000. Each dangerous animal possessed is a violation of this section, and each day it is possessed shall constitute and be punishable as a separate offense. Any fine imposed for a violation of this section shall not be suspended to any amount less than the minimum prescribed fine.

Sussex County

Sussex County Planning and Zoning
2 The Circle
Georgetown, DE 19947
Telephone: 302-855-7878
Fax: 302-854-5079
Website

If you reside in an unincorporated area of Sussex County, please call Planning and Zoning for any questions regarding ordinances pertaining to ownership of exotic animals. If you pay city taxes, you fall under the jurisdiction of the city in which you live; contact your City Hall to inquire about city ordinances prohibiting ownership of an exotic animal.

Sussex County Delaware Code: Sussex County does not have any county ordinances regarding ownership of exotic animals.

The individual permit fee is $25 and is valid for three years.

After you submit the completed application with the $25 fee, the Poultry and Animal Health Investigator will contact you to set up an appointment for a home inspection. The inspection consists primarily  of three parts:

  • Primary Enclosure: This is the habitat where the animal will be contained. It must be an appropriate size and set-up for the species you have requested.
  • Secondary Enclosure: This is an additional enclosure around the primary habitat designed to ensure that the animal cannot escape. It varies by species, but it is typically the home itself if the animal is housed indoors or a second fence if the animal is housed outdoors.
  • Owner Knowledge: The investigator will ask questions to determine if the applicant is aware of the needs of the animal and how they are prepared to handle these needs.

Laws and Regulations


Possession of Mammals or Reptiles Exotic to Delaware

Delaware Exotic Animal Regulations

Application


Prior to completing the application, make sure you have reviewed the frequently asked questions about owning an exotic animal in Delaware, along with all the laws and regulations. Make sure to check with your county or local jurisdiction to make sure you can have an exotic animal. Local cities, municipalities, and counties may enact more restrictive regulations which supersede state laws.

Delaware Exotic Animal Permit Application

For Additional Questions


If you have additional questions that were not answered, please contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture Poultry and Animal Health Section at 302-698-4561.


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