Pet Prairie Dog Legal and Illegal States 2024

Keeping a rodent as a pet is allowed in many U.S. States. Small rodents such as gerbils, hamsters, chinchillas, and Guinea pigs are kept as pets without a permit in many U.S. States. However, when it comes to Capybaras and Prairie dogs, only a few states allow them to be kept as pets.

Two prairie dogs eating carrots

Prairie dogs are illegal or require a permit to keep as pets in many states because they pose numerous threats to the public's health and safety, including but not limited to being extremely susceptible to the Plague, a disease that is caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. Humans typically get the disease by handling an animal infected with the plague or after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague. Rodents such as Prairie dogs are usually infested with fleas and lice, which increases the risk for both human and pet infestation.

In 2019, plague-infected prairie dogs prompted parts of a Colorado wildlife refuge to shut down because fleas could spread it to pets and humans, the Washington Post reported at the time.

Notwithstanding the risks, some states like Alabama and Florida allows prairie dogs to be kept as pets without a permit. In a few other states like Idaho and Massachusetts, a permit is required to keep Prairie dogs as pets. Many states including Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, and others ban Prairie dogs from being kept as pets.

States in Which Prairie Dogs Legal To Keep as Pets Without a Permit

If you reside in the following states, you don't need a permit to keep Prairie dogs as pets:
  1. Alabama
  2. Arkansas
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Nevada
  6. Texas
  7. Washington
  8. West Virginia
  9. Wyoming

In the state of Arkansas, residents are permitted to own up to six captive-born Prairie dogs per household. However, Black-tailed Prairie dogs are prohibited from being kept as pets in the Bear State. You may legally keep White-tailed prairie dogs, Utah prairie dogs, Gunnison's prairie dogs, and Mexican prairie dogs as pets in Arkansas. For more information, please refer to Arkansas's Prohibited Captive Wildlife Species List.

States in Which a Permit is Required To Keep Prairie Dogs as Pets

The following state requires that residents meet certain requirements and obtain a permit before keeping Prairie dogs as pets:
  1. Idaho
  2. Louisiana
  3. Maine
  4. Massachusetts
  5. Minnesota
  6. Mississippi
  7. Nebraska
  8. New Hampshire
  9. North Dakota
  10. Oregon
  11. Tennessee
  12. Utah
  13. Virginia

In the state of Utah, residents are required to obtain a valid certificate of registration and a federal permit before keeping any Prairie dog as a pet.

A prairie dog eating a carrot

States in Which Prairie Dogs are Illegal To Keep as Pets

It is illegal to keep Prairie dogs as pets in the following states:
  1. Arizona
  2. Alaska
  3. California
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut
  6. Delaware
  7. Georgia
  8. Hawaii
  9. Illinois
  10. Indiana
  11. Iowa
  12. Kansas
  13. Maryland
  14. Michigan
  15. Missouri
  16. Montana
  17. New Jersey
  18. New Mexico
  19. New York
  20. North Carolina
  21. Ohio
  22. Oklahoma
  23. Pennsylvania
  24. Rhode Island
  25. South Carolina
  26. South Dakota
  27. Vermont
  28. Wisconsin

Because laws are always changing, I suggest you check your local animal ordinances before taking a Prairie dog on as a pet. If Prairie dogs are legal to own as pets in your state, make sure to purchase from a reputable breeder or rescue shelter. Prairie dogs purchased from these sources should be healthy and free of disease. Furthermore, If you reside in a state that welcomes pet prairie dogs, be sure to check your municipal code, as municipalities in many states have the authority to ban animals that are legal under state laws.

Do Prairie Dogs Make Good Pets?

By all accounts, prairie dogs are increasingly becoming popular as pets, which are described as active, playful, loyal, sociable, and sturdy, making fairly affectionate pets if acquired young, socialized properly, and given lots of attention. After studying 25 black-tailed prairie dogs at Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri, scientists found that these intelligent rodents enjoy receiving attention just as much as humans do.

3 prairie dogs

Because they are very social animals that live underground in large colonies, Prairie dogs, which like nothing more than a good kiss and a cuddle, need to be kept in pairs to stay happy and healthy. Overall, prairie dogs can make very clean, good pets for committed owners.

As rodents that are extremely susceptible to the Plague, pet prairie dogs need regular veterinary care from time to time. Your vet is the best one to help keep your pet prairie dogs healthy, happy, and fit and help you plan their diet. Prairie dogs kept in captivity consume a vegetarian diet that includes fresh fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts, fresh hay and grass.

Fascinatingly, pet prairie dogs can easily be trained to use a litter box just like a house cat because, in the wild, prairie dogs live in colonies and dig community latrines just for this purpose. 

Prairie dogs may look cute and cuddly, however, they are wild animals armed with sharp claws and powerful teeth. A bite from a prairie dog can lead to serious infections if not treated. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a prairie dog bite should be immediately examined and treated by a medical professional.


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