Keeping a pet otter may seem tempting because they are adorably playful and curious. However, many states do not allow otters to be kept as pets. Very few states allow otters, but some may allow this animal with special permitting and licensing. Keep in mind that any otter species is a wild animal that will need specialized care, housing, and diet to stay happy and healthy. Of course, before deciding to purchase a pet otter, do your research to ensure you have the right applications, permits, and licenses in your particular state.
In all states where otters are legal to be kept as pets, the only species that can be owned is the Asian-clawed otter. Because Asian otters are not marine animals, they are not federally protected. Sea otters on the other hand are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes them federally illegal to own. It is important to get a pet otter from an individual or group that sells exotic animals because removing one from the wild can be dangerous.
There are fifteen states that allow you to own a pet otter with no permit. They include California, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
North Carolina will allow several exotic animals to be kept as pets and has very few pet ownership restrictions.
Otters are considered "game animals” in Michigan so they apply under game animal laws. This classification means that only native otters are legal which includes the river otter.
In Nevada, rules are pretty relaxed for large carnivores that cannot be owned in other U.S. states. River otters do not appear to be restricted at all. Nevada even lists “marine mammals” as requiring no permit to export, import, or own as a pet.
Other states allow otters to be owned as pets as long as a permit has been obtained. In Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Virginia potential otter owners need a permit to keep their furry friend as a pet. This process may include a home visit to make sure the otter has a proper enclosure and space to grow and live.
Pet Otter Legality
|District of Columbia||Illegal|