Arlington County Board to Consider Ban on Wild and Exotic Pets

Published on February 24, 2017

(Note: This news article has been edited to indicate that fowl, in most practical cases, cannot be kept in Arlington because of property restrictions specified in County Code.)

The Arlington County Board will consider setting a March public hearing on whether to make it illegal to keep wild and exotic animals as pets within the County.

Under current County Code, Arlington bars the keeping of pigs, poisonous reptiles and, in most practical cases, fowl. But there's nothing now on the books to prevent residents from raising a lion, monkey or even a crocodile.alligator

The proposed changes aim to prevent injury to humans as well as the mistreatment of animals far from their native habitats.

If adopted, the proposed amendments would align Arlington regulations with those in the District of Columbia, Fairfax, Prince William and Montgomery counties and the cities of Falls Church, Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Public safety officers also stand to benefit. Arlington enacted its venomous reptile ban after a 2008 close encounter between a dangerous snake and a first responder. The proposed exotics ban would further reduce the likelihood of similar surprises in the future.

The new code restrictions would limit non-poisonous snakes and other reptiles to no more than four feet in length.

Wild or exotic animals defined by the County range from monkeys, wolves, raccoons and lynx to alligators, tarantulas, hedgehogs and even sugar gliders.

Recognizing that some unusual pets may already live in Arlington, the proposed amendments would let owners keep them provided they get registered with animal control.

A request to advertise a March 18 public hearing on the amendments will be considered at the regular Feb. 25 County Board Meeting. There are several options for public input on the proposed amendments: 

  • Arlington's online CiviComment tool

  • U.S. Postal Service or hand delivery: Arlington County Department of Human Services, Attn: Lyn Hainge, 2100 Washington Blvd., Second Floor, Arlington VA 22204

  • In—person statement: Attend the (proposed) public hearing on March 18 at 8:30 a.m. in the County Board Room, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Third Floor, Arlington VA 22201.

  • Email:

All comments received are considered part of the public record.

The proposed changes to County Code are supported by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and animal control officers along with the Humane Society of America and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies.

Traditional pets are still more than welcome and adored in Arlington. Dogs must be vaccinated by four months of age and non-service pups must be licensed by six months. Cats and common aquarium and small-cage animals need no license.