Sugar gliders are adorable little pocket pets that form strong bonds with their owners, can be relatively easy to care for and train, and are unique and uncommon pets.
Owning a sugar glider is undoubtedly a conversation starter, and while these exotic animals might seem harmless, you might be surprised to know that they are banned as pets in quite a few US states.
Sugar gliders are illegal to own in California as they consider these exotic animals to be pests if released (or escaped) into the wild. They can be damaging to the native ecosystem.
You might think this is a bizarre and specific law and might even question whether or not they are illegal! In this article, we will run through why they are illegal in a bit more detail and also point out whether this law will likely change in the near future.
Are Sugar Gliders Illegal in California
A city or state typically makes owning, breeding, or selling a particular animal illegal for several legitimate reasons. These will primarily come down to a few of the following reasons:
- The specific animal can harbor and transfer/spread diseases to a community.
- The animal can cause a threat to the local ecosystem and disrupt the current habitats and food supply for native animals.
- The animal is illegal to prevent animal trafficking for rare or endangered species.
- The animal is seen as a threat and can have violent or dangerous tendencies (many times, you’ll find this is a specific breed, like how many perceive a pitbull to be an aggressive dog breed that can pose a threat to local children)
Now when it comes to a sugar glider, you might think that these seemingly innocent creatures offer no threat based on the above. However, sugar gliders are illegal in California and several other cities and states within the US.
Why Are Sugar Gliders Illegal in California
There are a few reasons why sugar gliders could be illegal in California (as well as other states in the US like Hawaii, Alaska, and Massachusetts), and many of the reasons are similar across states as well as identical across other mammals/rodents that might surprise you including hedgehogs and ferrets.
Sugar gliders are not known to carry disease, are not known to be a threat (except for perhaps biting their owners but nothing life-threatening (a hamster can bite people too!), and while there are some cases of illegal activity in terms of trafficking and breeding they are still relatively rare instances.
Why are these small, pocket-sized pets illegal to own in California?
Sugar gliders are illegal in California because they are considered pests when released into the wild as they cannot be rehomed/rehabbed in this non-native location.
This essentially means that as sugar gliders are exotic animals and usually imported, they are not native to the local areas in California. Therefore, the government’s viewpoint is that if these animals breed and are released into the wild, they can damage the local ecosystem.
This means that they could compete with local, established animals for habitat and food, which would damage the entire area’s ecosystem.
Should Sugar Gliders be Legal in California
Look into this in more detail. You’ll find that people have been creating petitions for several years to rack up support to make sugar gliders legal in California, and some of these petitions have amassed hundreds of signatures.
For such a unique and uncommon pet, there are many signatures and people who want to make sugar gliders legal in California. Of course, it’s not for us to decide whether or not a sugar glider should be made legal in California, but we certainly want to point out that it is a punishable offense if you try to buy or own one illegally.
According to Californian laws on exotic pets, the penalties can include:
- A civil fine of $500 – $10,000, plus the costs of the animal’s removal, storage, and care, and
- Criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Source – Shouselaw
Therefore, even if you think it’s unjust or excessive, California takes these laws quite seriously, which can lead to an illegal sugar glider being confiscated and euthanized (as well as facing some of the above punishments).
As you can see from the above, while sugar gliders are illegal, there are a few sources that want this law to be changed; Many feel that they are not adapted to survive in the wild in California and would be more likely to die within a few days rather than damaging the native ecosystem as the government claims.
While this may be true, and as petitions are being made to overturn or reconsider amendments and exceptions to this law, it doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.