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Are Hamsters Illegal in California? (+Other Pets Not Allowed)

Hamsters are adorable little creatures that many people enjoy keeping as pets. So you may be wondering, are hamsters illegal in California

It’s essential to know the pet laws regarding hamsters before you move to or visit California, so you can avoid any potential legal issues. 

This article provides you with an overview of laws and restrictions in place for these furry critters.

Keep reading!

Can You Own a Hamster in California?

a hamster in hand, do hamsters like to be held

California has some of the strictest laws on exotic pets in the country. It is illegal to keep any animal listed as an endangered species in the Game and fish commission Code.

It is also illegal to own any animals that the department feels will put public health and safety in danger or might hurt native wildlife and agriculture.

Some of these restrictions seem obvious – such as prohibitions on owning lions, venomous reptiles, tigers, or bears.

According to the California Code of Regulations 671, it’s also illegal to own a number of animals without a special permit: skunks, raccoons, venomous reptiles, prairie dogs, and bobcats.

The reasons for these restrictions are because of protection of natural resources, native species, and the ecosystem.

You might also be wondering can you have a ferret in California? No, you can not without a permit.

Other non-obvious animals that are illegal to keep as pets are:

  • Gerbils
  • Hedgehogs
  • Minks
  • Monkeys
  • Polecats
  • Squirrels
  • Weasels

Also, check out this video for a list of pets that are illegal in California.

However, Nevada’s lax regulations can often blindpet owners: penalties for breaking the law in California can be unforeseen and severe.

There is a law in California that prohibits the possession of certain hamster species {1]. Section 671 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations [2] mentions that it is illegal to possess any Syrian hamster, Russian, or Chinese hamster.

So if you’re thinking of getting a hamster as a pet, you’ll need to make sure it’s not one of those prohibited species. Otherwise,  you will be breaking the law.

But there are some hamsters and other small pets that you can own in California. These include Golden hamsters, Dwarf hamsters, Chinchillas, rats, mice, and guinea pigs.

a chinchilla in a girl's hand

The only requirement is that you buy them from a registered breeder or pet store.

READ MORE: How to Adopt a Hamster

Why Are Hamsters Illegal in California? 

Considering that hamsters are not native species to California, they pose a threat to the plant life and wildlife that are natural inhabitants of the state. 

a hamster in wild, what do hamsters eat in the wild

The hamster ban is because of fear of an invasive species. If there is a large population of small cuddly creatures in California, they could breed out of control, harming native plants and animals.

Plus, not only can they carry diseases when not in captivity, but they can also carry rabies, causing harm to other natural resources.

While you may not be able to own a hamster species, there are still many other exotic animals that are legal to own as pets in the state.

Here are some of the most popular exotic animals you can own in California:

  • Chinchillas
  • Fennec foxes
  • Hedgehogs
  • Sugar gliders – Read “Can you have a sugar glider in California?”
  • Skunks
  • Lizards
  • Turtles
  • Snakes

While hamsters may be illegal in California, there are still many places where they are allowed as pets.

If you are thinking about getting a hamster, check with your local laws to see if they are allowed where you live.

What Happens if Get Caught Having a Hamster in California? 

Here are some potential consequences if you find yourself in possession of an illegal hamster.

Civil penalties may include a $500 – $10,000 fine, depending on the severity of the case.

Criminal prosecution could result in a  sentence of up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.

Both these penalties are rare but not unheard of. Usually, the animal would be removed and put down.

Sadly, safe homes are hard to come by—for some animals it’s either being put down or suffering in neglectful conditions.

hamster eating peanuts

What Can You Do To Change This Law To Make Hamsters Legal in California?

To change the law and make hamsters legal in California, you will need to contact your state representative and express your desire for a change.

You may also want to consider joining or starting a petition to raise awareness and generate support for changing the law. 

Additionally, spreading information about the issue through social media and other channels can help pressure lawmakers to revisit the current law.

Finally, contacting local animal shelters or rescue organizations to offer assistance in finding homes for abandoned hamsters can help reduce the negative impact of the current law.

FAQs

What states are hamsters illegal in?

a hamster in hand, thinks to look for before buying a hamster

There are only a handful of states in the US where owning a hamster is illegal. These states are Hawaii, Rhode Island, California, and Georgia. It is against the law to own or possess a hamster in these states.

Are hamsters allowed in New Zealand?

If you’re looking to bring a small rodent as a pet to New Zealand, unfortunately, hamsters are not allowed.
They can cause damage to the local ecosystem and pose a health risk to humans and other animals. You might want to look for another adorable hamster replacement.

Which states allow Hamsters? 

Indiana, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Nevada are all states that allow hamsters as pets. 

Conclusion

Overall, while hamsters may be illegal in California, there are still many places where they are allowed as pets.

If you are thinking about getting a hamster, check with your local laws to see if they are allowed where you live. Additionally, spreading information about the issue through social media and other channels.

cute hamster standing on the floor

Are hamsters illegal in California? Please share your thoughts about this topic below!

References

1. The Five Most Popular Hamster Breeds [Internet]. www.petmd.com. [cited 2022 May 10]. Available from: https://www.petmd.com/exotic/evr_ex_hm_five-most-popular-hamster-breeds

2. California Statutes | Animal Legal & Historical Center [Internet]. www.animallaw.info. Available from: https://www.animallaw.info/statutes/us/california

Barry Stingmore
Barry Stingmore

Barry Stingmore is a British content writer living in Fuerteventura, Spain. An animal lover at heart, he shares his home with a dog and four rescue cats and has a passion for writing about animals big and small.

Barry loves finding answers to your animal-related questions, the more research involved the better! You can rely on him to find the facts.

Find him on FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND Linkedin
Read his latest ARTICLES.
Find more about him HERE.

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