Ownership and/or possession and appropriate disposition of wild and exotic pet species or their hybrids

​The AVMA acknowledges that ownership and possession of wild animal species, exotic pet species, and their hybrids may be legally permitted and that there are laws and regulations at international, federal, state, and local levels addressing stewardship. The AVMA is concerned with animal welfare, husbandry, infectious diseases, public health and safety, and environmental impacts associated with ownership of wild and exotic pets and their hybrids. The AVMA is also concerned that circumstances may arise in which caregivers of such animals may no longer keep them (e.g., caregivers find themselves unable to provide the care required for the animals, realize that the animals are not suitable for captivity, or discover that possession of these animals is illegal). Caregivers who find themselves in such situations must not jeopardize the welfare of these animals nor increase the risks that these animals pose to people, other animals, or ecosystems.


  • All who own or are considering owning wild animal species, exotic pet species, and their hybrids should educate themselves about animal husbandry, welfare, and safety requirements of these animals and about the risks that the animals may pose to humans, other animals, and ecosystems;
  • No wild animal species, exotic pet species, or their hybrids should be released into the environment (aquatic or terrestrial) unless specifically authorized by the regulatory authorities with oversight;
  • Caregivers who find themselves no longer able or authorized to keep their wild animal species, exotic pet species, or their hybrids must work with the appropriate authorities (e.g., state, federal, or tribal wildlife agencies) or legally authorized and qualified organizations (e.g., wildlife sanctuaries, zoos, or aquariums that are covered by the Animal Welfare Act or that are accredited) for proper disposition; and
  • The AVMA supports the adoption and enforcement of reasonable regulations pertaining to owners and caregivers of wild animal species, exotic pet species, and their hybrids.


  • Accredited wildlife sanctuary: A facility that cares for wildlife species and that incorporates all the following conditions:
    • Meets or exceeds regulatory oversight standards (e.g., 50 CFR §14.252, Animal Welfare Act, relevant state and local statutes)
    • Meets or exceeds relevant accrediting bodies’ standards of care (e.g., nutrition,
      veterinary medical care, and environmental enrichment)
    • Is approved by the relevant regulatory agencies and accrediting bodies with jurisdiction
    • Is subject to external inspection
  • Exotic pet species: A wide range of pet species other than domestic dogs, cats, and equids, which may be native or nonnative to the United States.
  • Hybrid: F1 or subsequent generations of offspring generated from crossbred subspecies, species, genera, etc. This includes animals such as ligers (lion and tiger hybrid), wolf hybrids and inter-subspecific crossed (generic) tigers.
  • Risk: Threats posed by these animals, which may serve as reservoirs and/or vectors for transmission of infectious agents or which may otherwise cause direct or indirect harm to humans, other animals, the environment, or wild populations of the same or related species.
  • Wild animal: Animal species that, whether or not raised in captivity, are normally found in a wild state; these species may be native or nonnative to the United States, may not yet have been subjected to domestication, or may be in the process of being domesticated.