Hedgehogs and Many Other Small Animals Are Illegal to Have as Pets in California — Here's Why

Hedgehogs are cute, but if abandoned in the wild, they run the risk of becoming an invasive species.

Anna Garrison - Author

Feb. 22 2024, Published 1:07 p.m. ET

Two hedgehogs in the grass.
Source: iStock

Plenty of people with dog or cat allergies still want to be pet parents, and for those people, an alternative furry friend might be the way to go. Creatures like hedgehogs come with minimum pet dander and are small enough that even someone living in an apartment can care for them.

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However, there are states like California that have banned hedgehogs as pets. Here's what you need to know about why California made this decision and what other animals are banned in the state.

Hedgehog sitting in grass.
Source: iStock
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Why are hedgehogs illegal in California?

Hedgehogs are illegal in California because they are considered exotic pets and pose a threat to native California wildlife.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website, "There are many concerns related to competition with native species, predation, and potential disease transmission when any non-native animal is introduced into the wild."

You may legally possess a hedgehog if you have a Restricted Species Permit. The qualifications for receiving said permit include "qualified individuals or institutions for limited purposes such as research, public exhibition, education, or shelter. Permits are not issued to import or possess any wild animal for pet purposes," according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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European hedgehog peeking around the corner of a tree stump.
Source: iStock

Exotic pets like hedgehogs can create new invasive species.

Not only is the exotic pet trade harmful to both the animals and the caregivers, but it can create an enormous amount of invasive species. People abandon their exotic pets when they become "too much" to handle or if the pet parents think they're doing animals kindness by setting them free.

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Marine biologist Andrew Rhyne explained to Scientific American that people think their released pets are "living a happy, productive life. But the external environment is not a happy place for these animals to live, especially if they’re not from the habitat they’re being released into.The vast majority of [these] species suffer greatly and die out in the wild."

Invasive species that developed from being introduced to a state as pets have become an enormous problem for states such as Florida, where Burmese pythons and black and white Tegu roam despite being native to South Asia and Argentina.

According to the University of Texas at Austin Biodiversity Center, other invasive species stemming from the exotic pet trade include alligators (in places such as Chicago and Long Island), African clawed frogs, American bullfrogs, green iguanas, and more.

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Small hedgehog in a field of grass and flowers.
Source: iStock

What other creatures are illegal to keep as pets in California?

The state of California also has the California Fish & Game Code 2118 that lists out all of the species that are illegal to " import, transport, possess, or release alive into this state." Some of the animals included in the list are:

  • Squirrels
  • Ferrets
  • Monkeys
  • Crows
  • Rabbits
  • Land Snails
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