When you think of pets, your mind probably goes to cats, dogs, fish, birds, lizards, or some variation of species you can find at your local PetSmart. That said, states often make a distinction between animals that classify as pets and those that are "exotic" or "dangerous." Exotic pets are allowed in most states, but require permits and restrictions.

Then there are some animals that are simply not allowed to be owned and possessed. That led me down the rabbit hole of looking into what pets one can and cannot own in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

Photo Credit: Anagramm, GettyStock
Photo Credit: Anagramm, GettyStock

Illegal Pets in Iowa:

According to Iowa law, these following animals are illegal to own in the Hawkeye State under any circumstances:

  • Wolves
  • Bears
  • Hyenas
  • Aardwolves
  • Rhinoceros
  • Elephants
  • Nonhuman primates
  • Herp: Crocodilians, water and crocodile monitors, beaded lizard, Gila monster, reticulated python, anaconda, African rock python, and venomous Atractaspidae, Elapidae, Crotalidae, Viperidae, Hydrophidae
  • Wild boars
  • Hybrids

The one tricky animal here is wolves. While pure-bread wolves are illegal to own, some species of wolf dogs are acceptable, albeit with a permit.

Photo Credit: Kjekol, Digital Team
Photo Credit: Kjekol, Digital Team

Illegal Pets in Illinois:

Illinois law doesn't seem to have as many exceptions for pets citizens can own. I remember when I lived/worked in Peru, IL a few years ago, somebody's pet Wallaroo got loose and hopped all over the city until animal control and law enforcement caught it in the Illinois River. It caused quite the kerfuffle on the streets, as you can imagine, but also made for some amazing news coverage for our local radio conglomerate.

That day I learned it was actually legal to own a Wallaroo in the state of Illinois. With that in mind, the Land of Lincoln is relatively more lax on what you can and can't own as a pet. Here's what Illinois classifies as "Dangerous Animals:"

  • Bears
  • Felines: lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi
  • Canines: Wolf, coyote
  • Hyena

In addition, there's also a specific grandfather clause for primates:

Primates owned on 1/1/2011 if 1) registered with local animal control by 4/1/2011 with name, address, phone, type of primate, age, photo, description of tattoo, microchip or other identifying information and list of current inoculations, 2) notification of address change within 30 days, and 3) immediately notifies of escape, death, bites or scratches - per UAppeal.org

Photo Credit: robru, Digital Team
Photo Credit: robru, Digital Team

Illegal Pets in Wisconsin:

Strangely enough, Wisconsin is one of merely four states that has no laws about keeping potentially dangerous, ordinarily wild animals as pets, per The Des Moines Register. Various attempts to make such laws have come and gone without being passed.

Over the years, residents have reported seeing a lion in Milwaukee and a kangaroo in Franklin.

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So while you might be in the clear if you're looking to raise a hyena or a bobcat in Wisconsin, you will likely need a specific license from the Wisconsin DNR. They offer several: the captive wild animal farm license, the nonprofit educational exhibit license, and the nonresident temporary exhibiting license.

Wisconsin DNR requires a license for anything deemed a "harmful wild animals," such as all bears, cougars, swans, and wolf-dog hybrids to name a few, per The Des Moines Register.

Photo Credit: iculizard, Getty Images
Photo Credit: iculizard, Getty Images

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