5 Exotic Animals that Are Legal to Own as Pets in Canada

Humans have kept animals as pets for over 12,000 years. Keeping animals for their companionship is something that has developed slowly throughout cultures over the years.

In earlier times dogs were the predominant furry companion but having pets of all kinds can be a wonderful experience. 

But what makes an animal a ‘pet’? This was something that was easy to work out in the days before the world became global. But as we started travelling the world (and bringing animals back), many people started getting a bit carried away.

This was something that was worked out in the United Kingdom in the the 1950s and 60s, when the department store Harrods had an ‘exotic animals’ department where everyday citizens could buy alligators, elephants, ostriches and lions for pets. There simply wasn’t the foresight to think of it

Christian the lion, who was purchased from Harrods

We have come a long way from then, but you may find it surprising that regulations on exotic pets in Canada is fairly poorly regulated. Never-the-less there are many exotic animals you can invite into your home like pot-bellied pigs to Pygmy goats. They may not all be the most practical options, but still, it is good to know what is out there right?

Here is a list of adorable exotic pets, that you had no idea were legal to own in Canada:

Capybara

Capybara - legal pet in Canada

The world’s largest rodent species is a lot like owning a dog-sized hamster.  While they can make decent pets, they do eat a lot of grass and require a space to go swimming.  Also, not that great of a pet for children as they have large sharp teeth and can get aggressive.

Wallaby

Wallaby - legal pet in Canada

The native Australian animal that is essentially a small kangaroo is a surprisingly popular pet in Alberta.  These social pets can get up to three-feet long and can even be trained.  Although they do require a lot of upkeep, the fact you need to offer them a pouch to sleep in makes them even more adorable.

Muntjac Deer

Muntjac Deer - legal pet Canada

The Muntjac deer is also known as the barking deer because bark like a dog.  They can grow to as large as 20 pounds but start out looking like a tiny Bambi.  The best part about them is that they will answer to their own name and use a litter box.

Sugar Glider

Sugar Glider - legal pet Canada

These tiny marsupials earned their name for their love of the sweet stuff and their ability to glide.  As pets, they can respond to commands and their names, but as colony creatures, they will literally die of loneliness if you don’t bring home more than one.

Fennec Fox

Fennec Fox - legal pet Canada

The most adorable exotic pet award goes to these tiny little foxes.  As independent as cats and as affectionate as dogs, the Fennec fox sounds like the perfect pet.  They love to be played with but are sensitive to too much noise, so keep things chill.

Hedgehog

Hedgehog - legal pet Canada

This spiky little companion are very low maintenance as pets. They mostly keep to themselves and are nocturnal in nature. Mostly you will just be making sure the hedgehog is well fed and that their cage is cleaned. Just make sure you watch out for those spikes.

Animals that it is illegal to keep

This is where the rules get a bit trickier because what can’t be kept as a pet in Canada often changes from province to province. On top of that it won’t always explicitly detail that keeping a certain animal is illegal, instead the law will just have nothing to say on the subject.

For example, Ontario law has regulations in place to outlaw the keeping of many local animals such as raccoons, wild turkeys and squirrels, however there are no specific laws that outlaw the ownership of a tiger or giraffe.

Jurisdiction on the other hand can have different laws again, with Toronto being a jurisdiction within Ontario that specifically outlaws the ownership of a long list of animals from monkeys to wolves to penguins (the full list can be found here)

The general laws in Canada’s provinces:

Yukon

The current Wildlife Act in Yukon states that it has regulations on all animals “not indigenous to the Yukon and that in its natural habitat is usually found wild in nature.”

If one wishes to own an exotic animal, that person must register with the city with a host of specific information before it can be considered.

British Columbia

The laws for keeping exotic animals as pets used to be more relaxed in British Columbia, however following several high profile incidents involving human injury (and one death), new regulations were implemented putting regulations on 1,000 unregulated exotic species (the list can be found here).

Anyone who owned one of the species prior to the regulations needed to register their pet.

Northwest Territories

No specific species are banned by legislation.

To import wildlife a person would need a registered certificate of health of the animal from a licensed veterinarian and then the approval of a permit is subject the to approval of the Deputy Minister.

Alberta

Alberta toughened its stance on exotic animals in 2000. It is illegal to own any exotic animals without a permit.

No specific species are banned by legislation.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan has two classifications for exotic pets, ones that need a permit and ones that don’t. The specifications for this can be found here.

While no exotic species are specifically banned, anecdotal stories suggest that permits for animals that require them are not often approved.

Nunavut

Nunavut has laws concerning the regulation of native wildlife but not real regulations that apply to other exotic species.

Manitoba

The legislation for exotic animal in Manitoba is fragmented and to get a full picture of what is allowed and what is not you have to examine the regulations in several departments.

Ontario

As discussed above Ontario is the only province that has no legislation for keeping exotic animals as pets at a provincial level.

Quebec

Quebec has specific laws that relate to keeping an animal as a pet without a permit. The extensive detail on this can be found here.

New Brunswick

Exotic pets require a permit to import and possess, however there is a list of 43 species that are exempt from this.

In 2013, a pet python in New Brunswick killed two young boys. Although there was a major awareness campaign to emphasise the care of exotic pets, no existing laws were changed.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia is one of the rare provinces with a comprehensive list of exotic animals that are prohibited and those that are allowed. Those lists can be found here.

The law states that any animal species not found on this list requires the application of a permit.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island has an extensive information on which animals can and can’t be kept.

The laws also state that an owner is responsible for the recapture of their pet should it escape.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador also have an extensive list of animals that can be brought in without a permit.

The law states at any other animals require a permit and native animals are not allowed as pets.

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