MN Laws


What is the Captive Wildlife Crisis?

The captive wildlife crisis has plagued our back yards.  We hear about it in the news, see it on our favorite television shows and commercial advertisements, they are at our local fairs. You see the ads for a circuses coming to town, festivals that exhibit wild animals, or tiger cubs presented at a local event.  In Illinois, a man was mauled to death by two tigers he kept in his backyard. A “pet” leopard attacked a woman in Louisiana. In North Carolina, a 10-year-old boy was killed by his aunt’s tiger, which pulled the boy under a fence and into its cage. Near Little Falls, Minnesota, 10-year-old Russell Lala, fought for his life after being attacked by a lion and tiger. The boy’s spinal cord was severed and the injury left him paralyzed from the neck down. He sustained a brain injury, several facial fractures, and is dependent upon a respirator.

tigers_privately_ownedThe Humane Society of the United States estimates that there are as many as 10,000 large wildcats in private ownership across the country.  Ron Tilson, Conservation Director for the Minnesota Zoo, states unequivocally that there are more tigers in backyards across the U.S. than in all of the zoos put together.  One such case is Tony the truck stop tiger.

In a CNN report Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said, “The exotic animal trade is second only to the drug trade in raw dollars. It’s literally billions of dollars exchanged in the exotic animal trade.” On Internet sites, you can point, click and buy lions and tigers. The motive is profit. Unfortunately, in the end it is the cats that pay the highest price. They often live in cramped, filthy conditions. Many are fed improperly and receive no veterinary care. And most pose a very real threat to public safety.

It is an unfortunate reality for wild animals to end up losing their freedom.  Breeders of exotic animals, like Bengal Tigers and African Servals, play a significant role in placing these animals as pets for private owners, as ‘exhibits’ in roadside zoos and circuses, as marketing tools for advertisement, as commodities for fur farms,  and sell them as potential trophies for game farms.

MN Law

The MN Regulated Animal law prohibits ownership of exotic cats, bears and non-human primates and any hybrid of the above and domestic animal. It grandfathers in SOME private owners and licensees who meet ALL of the following requirements:

  • The owner must have had possession of the animal prior to January 1, 2005.
  • The animal is legally registered with local animal control authority and the Board of Animal Health. If the animals are not on record as being registered with the local animal control AND the Board of Animal Healthy as of 2005, these animals cannot be legally possessed.
  • The owner has a written escape plan on file.
  • The owner has a proven vet of record and the vet will visit the animal at the animal’s location at least once annually.
  • The owner meets all USDA requirements for caging, vet care, feeding, etc.  (This means it is illegal for exotic cats, bears and non-human primates to be defanged and/or declawed in MN – see USDA rules above).
  • The owner/licensee is NOT allowed to increase the number of animals they have. If 15 were registered with the state, they can only possess 15.
  • Penalty is a gross misdemeanor per occurrence and seizure of the animal(s).
  • Exemptions can be found in the full law.
  • The MN Law also outlaws any domestic/wild hybrid cats that are F1-F3 generations including Savannahs, Safaris, Chausies and Bengals.  Only cats recognized by TICA and CFA as DOMESTIC CATS are legal to own.  Even though these breeds are recognized by TICA and CFA, they are not recognized as a domestic cat until THE F4 generation.

Definition of animal sanctuary in the MN law.

(c) “Wildlife sanctuary” means a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that:
(1) operates a place of refuge where abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned,
orphaned, or displaced wildlife are provided care for their lifetime;
(2) does not conduct any commercial activity with respect to any animal of which the
organization is an owner; and
(3) does not buy, sell, trade, auction, lease, loan, or breed any animal of which the
organization is an owner, except as an integral part of the species survival plan of the American

Privately_owned_tigers_in_MNTWS supports and helps draft legislation that restricts breeding and selling of exotic animals as well as keeping exotic animals as pets. In 2004, Minnesota, took a huge step forward by passing an exotic animal law that became effective January 1, 2005. The Wildcat Sanctuary played an integral role in getting this important legislation passed. Nancy Minion of Second Chance Animal Rescue coordinated the effort. Other organizations that supported the bill include the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Animal Control Association, Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association and the Minnesota Zoo along with a few very dedicated individuals. Then, in 2006, the law was strengthened by improving public safety requirements.

MN Board of Animal Health:  Exotic Animal Ownership

  • Tiger_living_in_inhumane_conditionsThe Minnesota Board of Animal Health is a state agency involved in programs for controlling animal disease in Minnesota’s animal populations.  The Board is made up of agricultural specialists and district veterinarians that work alongside the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the University of Minnesota, College of Veterinary Medicine.  They are responsible for the regulating of importing and exporting of animals, quarantining or euthanizing animals with contagious or infectious diseases, as well as licensing and regulating of specific animals within the state.
  • The Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MNBAH) has an introductory website with the rundown of Minnesota exotic animal ownership laws.  There is an FAQ section discussing the animals that need to be registered, who needs to register, and how to register, fees that may be involved in the process, and tips on how to transfer ownership of registered animals.  MNBAH has online forms for registering regulated animals and a form for ‘change of location’.  They also have direct links to Minnesota statutes for regulated animals and definitions.

Other Resources

MVAP: (Minnesot Voters for Animal Protection)

Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection (MVAP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization incorporated as a 501(c)(4) that works to protect Minnesota’s animals by promoting humane legislators and humane legislation in Minnesota.  Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection achieves its mission by lobbying elected officials, calling supporters to action on important issues, tracking and publicizing the voting records of incumbents and the positions of candidates on animal protection issues, and endorsing favorable candidates and mobilizing voters to give grassroots support to them.