Exotic Animals Mostly Prohibited in Fairfax

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Teacup pigs

The recent escape of herds of exotic animals from a private Ohio zoo has raised questions about what kind of animals may be legally housed in Fairfax County.

The answer is that residents of Fairfax County are welcome to own “companion” animals but there are restrictions on “exotic” animals.

Companion animal means any domestic or feral dog, domestic or feral cat, non-human primate, guinea pig, hamster, rabbit not raised for human food or fiber, exotic or native animal, reptile, exotic or native bird, or any feral animal or any animal under the care, custody, or ownership of a person or any animal that is bought, sold, traded, or bartered by any person. Agricultural animals, game species, or any animals regulated under federal law as research animals are not considered companion animals.

Wild or exotic animal means any live monkey (non-human primate), raccoon, skunk, wolf, squirrel, fox, leopard, panther, tiger, lion, lynx or any other warm-blooded animal, poisonous snake or tarantula that can normally be found in the wild state or any other member of a crocodilian, including but not limited to alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gavials. Ferrets, non-poisonous snakes, rabbits and laboratory rats that have been bred in captivity and that have never known the wild are excluded from this definition.

Exotics mostly prohibited

Local codes largely prohibit the keeping of wild, exotic or vicious animals in Fairfax County.

Section 41.1-4.1 describes the law and its exceptions:

–          No person shall keep or permit to be kept any wild, exotic or vicious animal, as those terms are defined (above) for any purposes except: zoological parks, traveling animal exhibitions, circuses or veterinary clinics that are properly licensed by Federal or state governments. The wild or exotic animals of such establishments shall not be exhibited or displayed in such a manner than persons other than their handlers can pet, fondle or otherwise come into direct physical contact with such animals. This prohibition shall not apply to the riding of elephants by persons other than the handlers while under the direct supervision of the handlers while performing in properly licensed parks/exhibitions or circuses.

41.1-4-2 describes the requirement of proper information sharing for those selling exotic animals at the time/place of their sale:
No person may lawfully keep or permit to be kept in Fairfax county (other than a certified service animal) any live monkey, raccoon, skunk, wolf, squirrel, fox, leopard, panther, tiger, lion, lynx or any other warm-blooded animal, poisonous snake or tarantula, crocodile or alligator, which can normally be found in the wild state or any other member of the crocodilian, including but not limited to alligators, crocodiles, caimans and gavials.

Section 41.1-4-3 Disposition of Animals
Any person who keeps a wild, exotic or vicious animal in contravention of this article may dispose of the animal by removal of the animal from Fairfax County, by giving or selling the animal to a zoological park or by releasing the animal to the Animal Services Division, which shall release the animal to the wild, to a zoological park, or other entity approved for the care or protection of the particular species

More info

There are several laws, codes and home owner restrictions, however, referencing owning and housing of “exotic” animals. Please visit the Fairfax County zoning site for specific information on these restrictions.

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About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.