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Rhode Island Proposes Changes to Exotic Animal Rules
Posted: Tuesday, March 16, 2010, 6:59 p.m., EDT

African rock pythonThe Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has proposed amendments to rules and regulations governing the importation and possession of exotic wild animals. The department is accepting public comment until March 18.

The proposed amendments aim to modify the state’s “Rules and Regulations Governing the Importation and Possession of Wild Animals” to clarify which animals may be owned with a permit and which animals do not require a permit. The department has also proposed changing the title of the regulations to “Rules and Regulations Governing the Importation and Possession of Exotic Wild Animals.”

Specifically, the proposal calls for the establishment of three categories of animals: domestic animals, exempt exotic animals and exotic animals. Animals classified as domestic or exempt exotic animals do not require a permit for ownership. Animals classified as exotic do require a permit. Animals that do not appear on either the domestic animals or exempt exotic animals lists require a permit by default.

The department defines “exotic animals” as “any vertebrate or invertebrate other than those defined as domestic animals, native wildlife, or exempt exotic animals under this regulation.” The proposal states that any exotic animal imported into or possessed within the state without a permit will be considered contraband and may be confiscated.

Under the proposed regulations, all aquarium trade fish would not require an exotic animal possession permit, except endangered species and grass carp or white amur; piranha; rudd; walking catfish; and snakeheads.

Possession of all exotic amphibians would require a permit. Permits would be granted on a case-by-case basis to applicants who ensure that the animals will be kept in a manner such that the animal has no means of escape into the wild.

All exotic turtles may be kept without a permit, except endangered species and the Argentina or Chaco tortoise; gopher tortoise; and pancake tortoise.

(The department’s Division of Fish and Wildlife regulations prohibit possession of red-eared slider turtles).

All venomous and endangered snakes would require an exotic animal permit, but the following snakes may be kept without a permit:

  • All species of boas and pythons, except the emerald tree boa, green tree python, African rock python, reticulated python and all species of anaconda;
  • Shield-tailed snakes, sunbeam snakes and others in the families Uropeltidae and Xenopeltidae;
  • Worm snakes, thread snakes and others in the families Typhlopidae, Leptotyphlopidae and Anomalepidae;
  • Certain snakes of the family Colubridae.

Possession of all chameleons, the Gila monster, beaded lizard and all monitors would require a permit. Also in need of a permit are Florida sand skinks, Solomon Island ground skinks, certain teiids and the Big Bend gecko.

Endangered bird species and migratory birds listed in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act would require a permit, as would the monk parakeet, rose-colored starling and the red-billed, black-fronted or Sudan diochs.

The following mammals may be kept without an exotic animal permit:

  • Four-toed hedgehog;
  • Chinchilla derived from captive stock;
  • Deer mouse and white-footed mouse;
  • Degu;
  • Egyptian spiny mouse;
  • House mouse;
  • Jerboas;
  • Norway rat;
  • Paca;
  • Striped hamster, also known as the Chinese or Siberian dwarf hamster;
  • Sugar glider.

In a PetAlert, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) said it is “at a loss” as to why a permit would be required for every amphibian, pancake tortoise, emerald tree boa and chameleon. The organization also noted that it is unclear if an individual permit is required for each animal or whether a commercial importer can import a group of animals under a single permit. In addition, PIJAC raised issue with requiring a person who possesses an endangered species of bird to have a permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service co-signed by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management's Division of Wildlife.

Public comments on the proposal must be received no later than 12 p.m., EDT on March 18. Comments may be sent to: Division of Agriculture, 235 Promenade St., Room 370, Providence, RI, 02908 or via e-mail to

To view the proposed amendments in their entirety, click here. <HOME>

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