County Board Bans Wild and Exotic Animals as Pets

Published on September 20, 2017


  • Current owners can grandfather pets through registry process

  • New care, handling, enclosure standards for non-venomous snakes


The Arlington County Board on Tuesday amended Chapter 2 of the County Code to prohibit residents from keeping wild and exotic animals as pets.

Current owners can retain wild and exotic pets


The Code amendment creates a registry to allow owners of wild and exotic animals already in the County to legally retain them. The ban does not include non-venomous snakes, but a set of care, handling and enclosure standards were put in place for non-venomous snakes weighing more than 25 pounds. Venomous reptiles already are banned in the County.

"What began as a seemingly straightforward effort to ban exotic pets in Arlington became much more complex and nuanced as the process evolved," Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. "Ultimately, through a lot of conversation with the community, we were able to adopt a Code amendment that reaches a practical balance of the input received from all sides and is enforceable."

Aligning Arlington with neighboring jurisdictions


[caption id="attachment_11245" align="alignright" width="300"] Alligators are banned as pets.[/caption]

The Board's action puts existing state law on the local books. In doing so, it allows County animal control officers to take some actions previously enforceable only by state officials. The change also better aligns Arlington with neighboring jurisdictions.

The Board voted unanimously to amend the Code. To read the staff report, or view the archived video of the meeting, visit the County website. Scroll down to item no. 57 on the agenda for the Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017 Recessed County Board Meeting.

The following animals are prohibited as pets in the County effective immediately. Residents who currently own an animal covered by the prohibition should contact the Animal Welfare League of Arlington to fulfill registration requirements.

Prohibited Animals:


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  • Non-human primates

  • Raccoons

  • Skunks

  • Wolves or wolf hybrids

  • Coyotes

  • Squirrels

  • Foxes

  • Leopards

  • Panthers

  • Tigers

  • Lions

  • Bears

  • Wild cats including hybrids (i.e., bobcat, lynx and caracal),

  • Ratites (flightless birds)

  • Crocodilians

  • Venomous snakes, venomous reptiles

  • Any other warm-blooded mammal that can normally be found in the wild state


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  • Members of the order Scorpiones (scorpions) other than those in the genus Pandinus, which are permitted

  • Centipedes of the genus Scolopendra

  • Spiders of the genus Latrodectus (widow spiders); spiders of the genus Loxosceles (recluse spiders); spiders of the family Dipluridae (funnel-web spiders); spiders of the genus Phoneutria  (banana spiders aka wandering spiders); spiders of the family Ctenizidae (trap-door spiders); spiders of the genus Sicarius (sand spiders); and spiders of the family Theraphosidae (tarantulas), EXCEPT for Theraphosids native to  North and South America and Brachypelma smithi (Mexican redknee tarantula), which are  permitted.


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[caption id="attachment_13511" align="alignright" width="300"] Hedgehogs are not prohibited.[/caption]

Rabbits, rats, mice, ferrets, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and guinea pigs that have been bred in captivity are excluded from the definition of "wild or exotic animal," and are permitted as pets. Also excluded from this definition and allowed as pets are all domestically bred or legally imported birds that are not ratites, non-venomous snakes, non-venomous reptiles, amphibians and fish.