Can Raccoons Be Kept as Pets?

By Naomi Millburn

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Raccoons (Procyon lotor) are wild creatures who often live in close proximity to humans, whether they're busily scrounging for food behind restaurants or scouring agricultural sites. Although raccoons are common sights for many people, they're definitely not the most common pets around.

Illegal in Many States

The legalities of owning a raccoon depend on where specifically you live. Keeping a pet raccoon is strictly illegal in many states, including but not limited to New York, Tennessee, Colorado, Illinois and Kentucky. If you reside in an area in which ownership of raccoons is prohibited, you are not permitted to spot a raccoon out in nature, bring him into your residence and care for him. If you're passionate about owning a raccoon, however, find out whether you are allowed to do so by calling your area's law enforcement centers.

Legal in Some States

While ownership of pet raccoons is banned in many states, it isn't in others. Some states allow its residents to own pet raccoons without permits. Many states do call for permits in raccoon ownership, however. Other types of restrictions also often apply to owning a raccoon. Some states might only allow captive raccoons who were acquired from licensed breeders, for instance. Other states might have restrictions on exactly how many raccoons an individual can keep inside his home. Make sure you understand your region's laws before you attempt to take a raccoon as a pet. If you can keep a raccoon only with a permit, apply for one as soon as possible. Indiana is one example of a state that allows pet raccoons, but solely with permits.

Considerations of Pet Ownership

If it turns out that owning a raccoon is legal in your area, make sure you think the whole idea through extremely carefully before making a decision. Raccoons, unlike dogs and cats, aren't domesticated. When they become reproductively mature, they can adopt hormonal behavioral patterns, including fierceness fueled by territoriality. Mature raccoons can wreak havoc on the interiors of peoples' houses. Adult males are usually more problematic, and hazardous, than females. Always consider safety in making your decisions. Think about your safety, the safety of other people around you, and the well-being of the wild animal. A youthful raccoon might seem cuddly. He's anything but.

Veterinary Care and Raccoons

Behavioral concerns aren't the only potential problems in raccoon ownership. As wild animals, raccoons can have diseases such as rabies. Parasites are a possibility in raccoons. Some of these diseases can be transmit to animals and humans -- severe danger. If you get a raccoon as a pet, you must take him to a veterinarian immediately to check for illnesses. Since raccoons are such rare pets, it might be difficult for you to track down a veterinarian who is willing to look at yours.

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