Utah’s Laws on Exotic Animals

While going about my daily chores, I had the news going in the background. Half listening, a highlighted story sparked my interest. This specific story involved criminal charges against a Holladay man for having roughly 20 Burmese Python snakes in his possession. This individual sold a baby Burmese Python to an undercover officer. A search warrant was issued for his residence, where officers found 20 Burmese Python snakes, rabbits, and rats.  

While certainly an animal advocate and lover, I cannot say that snakes are an animal I would want to own. That said, this is not about whether or not snakes make great pets. Instead, I thought it interesting to talk about the laws and ordinances associated with owning animals, especially exotic animals. In the story I am referencing, the individual was charged with (among other charges for items found in his home) 10 counts of possessing an exotic animal without a permit and ten counts of possessing a dangerous animal without a license.  

I hypothesize that I would be shocked to learn the wide range of pets people own. Each state has its laws in place regarding owning exotic animals, and Utah is no exception. However, in addition to the state laws, you must also be aware of the rules and regulations. Cities may have different rules and regulations than the state does. Cities also have specific authority and regulations regarding the number of animals you may own, including domestic dogs and cats. Generally, all cities require you to license both your domestic and exotic animals but owning an exotic animal may require you to obtain special licensing or permits. 

Utah Code §23-20-25 outlines the exhibition of a license, permit, tag, or device required in Utah. Violation of this code results in a misdemeanor. 

Utah’s Administrative Code governs administrative rules. As it pertains to this subject, Rule R657-3 governs the Collection, Importation, Transportation, and Possession of Animals. R657-3(2)(a) states:

A person may import or possess a live animal or parts classified as non-controlled for commercial use or a commercial venture. Except for native or naturalized animals, animals may not be sold or traded unless they originate from a captive-bred population.

Utah has specific rules regarding certificates of registration as to reptiles and amphibians. These rules are found in Utah Administrative Code R657.35. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources also has a “Utah Reptiles and Amphibians Online Guide Book,” which provides information and guidance on this subject. Before considering ownership of an exotic reptile or amphibian, I recommend spending time reading the Online Guide Book as the website outlines new rules issued in 2020.      

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