3 pets that are banned in Wisconsin (+ 3 that surprisingly aren’t)

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While Wisconsin may be known as the “Badger State,” it’s uncommon to find Wisconsinites keeping pet badgers in their homes … right?

Well, while most people in Wisconsin will never encounter a pet badger, they are actually legal to own. In fact, the State of Wisconsin has some of the most permissive laws in the country regarding the keeping of exotic animals.

So, if you’ve always dreamed of pet ownership that goes beyond the traditional cats, dogs, and hamsters, Wisconsin just may be the state for you! But that doesn’t mean you can keep any animal you like. Let’s have a look at the creatures you can’t — and can! — call your own in Wisconsin.

Banned pets in Wisconsin:

Tanuki/Raccoon Dogs

These guys, who are related to foxes and other members of the canid family, may look fluffy and cuddly, and have even starred in their own Studio Ghibli film, but they’re a highly invasive species that can wreak havoc on ecosystems where they’re not native. That’s why the United States has banned ownership of the tanuki, also known as the raccoon dog.

Even in Wisconsin, with its liberal laws on pet ownership, you’ll have to stick to the movies to get your tanuki fix.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Prairie Dogs

Wisconsin isn’t too far from the prairies of the Great Plains, so it might seem like prairie dogs, with their compact size and cute little faces, could make a great pet for Badger State natives. Not so fast.

Prairie dogs may not have specific pet ownership laws prohibiting them in Wisconsin, but bringing a prairie dog into the state is strictly prohibited. If you have a yard and don’t want to deal with tunnels, that’s probably for the best!

Photo courtesy of Moritz Kindler via Unsplash.

Tree Squirrels

Pet squirrels are legal in Wisconsin as a rule, but tree squirrels, which are a type of rodent originating in Africa, are also on the list of species which may not be brought into Wisconsin, whether as pets or for any other reason. This is a safety measure imposed by the Wisconsin Department of Trade, Agriculture, and Consumer Protection, so you’ll have to stick with North American squirrels for furry, nut-storing friends!

Photo courtesy of Abdelrahman Ismail via Unsplash.

Legal pets in Wisconsin:

Fennec Foxes

These members of the fox family have become social media darlings due to their silky coats and distinctive ears. They’re legal to keep as pets in Wisconsin, but you won’t be able to just wander into your local pet store and take one home — you’ll need to have a valid import permit, and make sure that you’re getting your fennec fox from a USDA licensed breeder. Better safe than sorry!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.


Looking for a pet that’ll take you for a walk on the wily side? Wisconsinites with a Captive Wild Animal Farm License can keep coyotes as pets. You’ll not only need a permit, but you also must ensure that your coyote was purchased from a USDA licensed breeder.

Once you’re licensed and have your coyote, you’ll need to renew your farm license annually, and of course, keep your new pet far away from any ACME products.

Photo courtesy of John Thomas via Unsplash.


Pet raccoons have a storied history in the United States. When First Lady Grace Coolidge received a delivery of a live raccoon to the White House, from a farmer who thought the President might like to eat it for Thanksgiving dinner, she decided to raise the critter as a pet instead. She named the animal Rebecca, and it become the first (and only) White House raccoon.

If you want to follow in the footsteps of the Coolidges, you’re welcome to do so in Wisconsin with a Captive Wild Animal Farm License and an animal from a USDA licensed breeder — just be careful, lest these furry little bandits cause chaos in your home!

Photo courtesy of Gary Bendig via Unsplash.

Remember, if you’re a Wisconsinite looking to adopt an exotic pet, be sure that you’re aware of its needs and have the resources to care for it. Just like cats and dogs, exotic pets are members of the family, and deserve to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

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  • Ellery Weil

    Ellery Weil is a historian and writer who holds degrees from the University of Michigan and University College London. In her spare time, she likes cooking, theater, and petting dogs she meets on the street.

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