A look at federal laws that apply to keeping exotic animals in North Carolina:
The Lacey Act -- Bars trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. Makes it a separate offense to take, possess, transport or sell wildlife taken in violation of other federal, state and foreign laws. Also bars falsification of documents for most shipments of wildlife and failure to mark wildlife shipments.
Captive Wildlife Safety Act -- Makes it illegal to import, export, buy, sell, transport, receive or acquire, in interstate or foreign commerce, live lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, cheetahs, jaguars or cougars, or any hybrids of these species, unless certain exceptions are met. Designed to address Internet trade in big cats. Federal regulations generated from this act bar anyone owning a prohibited wildlife species from transporting the animal between states or to a foreign country, even as a pet or part of a household move.
The Animal Welfare Act -- Regulates sale and exhibit of wild, exotic mammals and the wholesale trade in pet mammals. Birds, rats and mice are exempt from these requirements. The law is enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and requires wholesale breeders, laboratory animal brokers, animal dealers, research facilities and exhibitors such as zoos, animal shows, carnivals and marine mammal parks to be licensed, subject to inspection and to meet standards of housing and care for the animals. Privately owned pets, pet stores, animal shelters, sanctuaries, rodeos, farm animal exhibits, pet shows, and facilities not open to the public are not required to be licensed or inspected by the USDA.
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State animal law requires a license for pet shops, animal shelters, animal auctions, boarding kennels and animal dealers issued by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Other state laws require USDA-licensed research facilities and exhibitors to obtain a state permit to import skunks, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes and other wild animals into North Carolina. Bison can be brought into the state if a licensed veterinarian certifies them disease-free.
Wildlife indigenous to North Carolina is regulated by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which can issue captivity permits to zoos, research facilities and rehabilitation centers. It will not issue permits to people who want to keep wild animals as pets or for hunting purposes.