With their pointy faces and scaly tails, possums are certainly unique creatures. If you’ve been wondering whether it’s legal to keep a possum as a pet, you’re not alone. Possums are growing in popularity as exotic pets, though laws surrounding them vary widely across the United States.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: possums are legal pets without a permit in just a handful of states, including Oklahoma, Arizona, Delaware, and Missouri. Most states prohibit owning possums as pets or require special permits.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a close look at possum ownership laws in all 50 states. We’ll cover which states allow possums outright, which prohibit them, and which require special exotic pet permits.

We’ll also look at key considerations like possum care requirements and public health concerns that influence legislation in various states. Read on for everything you need to know about legally owning one of these unique marsupials in the United States.

Possum Ownership Laws By State

Only a handful of states allow possums to be kept as pets without a permit. These include:

  • Wisconsin – Possums are classified asprotected wild animals, but can be kept as pets.
  • Oklahoma – Possums are not regulated and can be owned without a permit.
  • South Carolina – Possums are not protected and can be owned without restrictions.
  • Alabama – Possums are not classified as protected and can be privately owned.

In these states, possums can be legally obtained from a breeder or wildlife rehabilitator. However, some municipalities within these states may have local restrictions on possum ownership. It’s advisable to check local laws before acquiring a pet possum.

Many states allow possum ownership, but require special permits:

  • Texas – Permit required through Texas Parks and Wildlife.
  • New York – License required through Department of Environmental Conservation.
  • Illinois – Permit needed through Department of Natural Resources.
  • Arizona – Permit required from Game and Fish Department.
  • Rhode Island – Permit from Department of Environmental Management required.

To get a possum permit in these states, specific requirements must be met regarding enclosures, veterinary care, and other standards of animal welfare. Permit applicants may also need to demonstrate prior experience handling wildlife. Annual renewal of permits is generally required.

Several states currently prohibit owning possums as pets, including:

  • California – Possums are restricted species and cannot be kept as pets.
  • Georgia – Possums are designated rabies vector species, so cannot be privately owned.
  • Hawaii – All marsupials, including possums, are illegal to own as pets in Hawaii.
  • Oregon – Possums fall under the category of “Exotic Animals” that cannot be owned without a permit, and no permits are issued.
  • Iowa – Possums are listed as dangerous wild animals that are unlawful to own.

In these states, it is illegal to trap, keep, or sell possums. Strict penalties including hefty fines and confiscation may apply for violating possum ownership laws. Some states may allow possum ownership only by zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, or research institutions.

To summarize, while possums do make unique pets, laws regarding possum ownership vary greatly depending on the state. It’s important to thoroughly research state and local laws before attempting to acquire a pet possum.

Factors Influencing Possum Legality

Zoonotic Diseases

Possums may carry a variety of concerning diseases that can be transmitted to humans, including leptospirosis, tuberculosis, relapsing fever, tularemia, spotted fever, toxoplasmosis, and rabies. Contact with possum feces, urine, saliva or even ingesting undercooked possum meat can expose humans to bacterial, viral and parasitic infections.

Leptospirosis cases linked to possums per year in the US 150-200
Rabies prevalence in wild possum populations 2-4%
These risks often preclude keeping possums as pets, especially in urban households with children.

Preventative measures like vaccines and deworming may reduce but not eliminate the risks.

Environmental Impacts of Invasive Species

Possums are not native to most of the United States. As an introduced species, they can negatively impact local ecosystems if released or allowed to escape captivity. Possums may compete with native wildlife for resources, destroy gardens/crops, and spread exotic parasites and diseases.

For example, ticks carried by Virginia opossums in California can transmit a deadly disease that has killed 60-90% of black-legged kittiwakes there since 2002.

Care and Housing Requirements

Possums have specialized care needs that most homeowners cannot adequately meet. They are nocturnal, solitary, marsupial mammals that require large, secure enclosures with enrichment activities. Their omnivorous diet, demanding social tendencies, need for exercise and veterinary care make them challenging pets.

Few exotic veterinarians treat possums. Surrendered pet possums often face euthanasia at shelters and rescues since they aren’t easily adoptable like dogs or cats. For these reasons, many states prohibit keeping possums as pets to prevent impulse purchases and abandonment issues.

Owning Possums Ethically and Responsibly

Sourcing Captive-Bred vs. Wild-Caught Possums

When considering getting a pet possum, it is important to source them ethically and legally. Captive-bred possums from reputable breeders are ideal, as they are used to human contact from birth. Removing possums from the wild is illegal in most states and extremely stressful for wild animals.

Reputable breeders focus on captive breeding programs to preserve docile temperaments. They keep possums in clean, naturalistic cages meeting all husbandry needs. Responsible purchasing supports sustainable trade avoiding endangering wild populations.

Providing Proper Housing and Diet

As semi-arboreal marsupials, possums require roomy, multi-level housing with ample climbing surfaces. The minimum enclosure size for one possum is around 7′ x 3.5′ x 3.5′. Good ventilation, hide boxes, and nesting material should be provided.

An omnivorous diet with fruits, vegetables, insects and meat variety is ideal. Feeding schedules should follow natural rhythms, as possums prefer to eat before dawn and after dusk. Fresh water must be continually available.

Regular Vet Care and Health Precautions

Though robust when captive-bred, possums are susceptible to bacterial infections, parasites, and metabolic bone disease. New owners should find an exotic vet for check-ups and establish vaccine protocols.

Zoonotic diseases which can transfer from possums to humans include salmonellosis, leptospirosis, tuberculosis and tularemia. Practicing common-sense hygiene and handling techniques greatly reduces risks.

Conclusion

When it comes to exotic pet ownership, laws vary widely depending on where you live. Only a handful of states allow possums to be kept as pets without a permit, while the majority prohibit it or require special licensing.

Responsible possum ownership also involves meeting their complex care needs and taking precautions to protect public health.

If you’re interested in sharing your home with one of these unique animals, thoroughly research your local laws and regulations first. Work with knowledgeable exotic pet veterinarians to ensure you can properly care for a possum.

With adequate research and preparation, possums can make intriguing exotic pets for the right owners in states where they are legal.

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