Wild and Exotic Animals Banned as Pets

The Arlington County Board on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 amended Chapter 2 of the County Code to prohibit residents from keeping wild and exotic animals as 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 (see §2-19, Keeping and Handling of Reptiles and Snakes) were put in place for non-venomous snakes weighing more than 25 pounds. Venomous reptiles already are banned in the County.

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.

Prohibited Animals

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 by November 19, 2017.

  • Non-human primates (e.g., lemur, monkey, tamarin, marmoset…)
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Wolves or wolf hybrids
  • Coyotes
  • Squirrels
  • Foxes
  • Leopards
  • Panthers
  • Tigers
  • Lions
  • Bears
  • Wild cats including hybrids (e.g., bobcat, savanna, lynx and caracal),
  • Ratites (flightless birds such as the emu, ostrich, cassowary…)
  • Crocodilians
  • Venomous snakes, venomous reptiles
  • Any other warm-blooded mammal that can normally be found in the wild state
  • 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.


Emus, and other birds in the ratite group, are prohibited.

Which wild and exotic animals are permitted as pets?

Baby hedgehog

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.

Dogs and cats are fine! Click here for information on dog licensing requirements.

Disposition of Wild or Exotic Animals (County Code §2-20.1)

Any resident of Arlington County in possession of a wild or exotic animal as defined in Arlington County Code §2-18 (with the exception of venomous snakes and venomous reptiles, which are banned) prior to the date of this code  change, must either dispose of the animal or register it with the Animal Control Agency.

For the purpose of registration, proof of residency is required; documentation requirements are at the sole discretion of the Animal Control Agency.

Such disposal shall be made by removal of the animal from Arlington County by giving or selling it to:

  • A zoo accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)
  • A wildlife sanctuary as defined under the  federal Lacey Act (16 USC 3371-3378)
  • A veterinary clinic that is properly licensed by the federal government or the  Commonwealth of Virginia

Animals may also be disposed of by humane euthanasia or by giving possession of the animal to the Animal Control Agency.