Insects As Pets: What Can You Keep?

Pets have become a part of the family in many homes. A recent Harris Poll found that approximately 62% of Americans have a pet. Of those, 95% consider their pet to be part of their family.

Of course, the vast majority of people own a cat and/or dog. Only 9% of people surveyed said they had a pet that didn’t fall into the dog, cat, fish or bird category. The “other” category is the box checked by insect owners. While most people do everything they can to get rid of insects, some people invite them into their home.

Of the hundreds of thousands of insect species in the world, only a small number are actually domesticated. Whether it’s preference or regulations, the following bugs are the most common pets:

  • Centipedes
  • Millipedes
  • Mantids
  • Madagascar hissing roaches
  • Tarantulas
  • Stick insects
  • Leaf cutters
  • Ants
  • Horned rhinoceros beetles

Keeping insects as pets can pose a number of serious issues (like infestations and injury), which is why there are regulations involved with ownership. The rules vary from one city to the next, but there are a few standard regulations that usually come with keeping an insect as a pet no matter where you live.

Insects Are Typically Considered Exotic

Since insects are all around you may not think of them as exotic, but that’s typically the category they fall under in city pet ordinances. One of the commonalities of pets that are considered exotic is they pose a threat in the form of disease or physical injury. Because of this, exotic pets come with a lot more restrictions. Whenever you’re trying to determine the laws of your local area look for the policy on exotic pets.

Transport Laws Almost Always Apply

The regulations sometimes begin before your insect pet even makes it home. The federal government and states have put very tight regulations on which insects can and can’t be imported into the U.S. Banned bugs will be illegal in any situation. Other times the sender may need to get a special permit to ship the insect.

If you aren’t sure about the guidelines ask the provider if they must follow shipping regulations and if they have the proper permits. Customs will comb through packages, which means there’s a good chance perpetrators will get caught. Hefty fines will be handed out all around if the rules aren’t followed.

The federal regulations for importing exotic animals are outlined in the Lacey Act. It’s designed to discourage illegal trafficking of certain animals, plants and plant products.

There is one exception: anytime a naturally occurring insect is being transported within a state no permit is needed. However, the second you cross state lines regulations will apply and a license from the USDA APHIS will be needed.

An Import/Export License Doesn’t Exempt You

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issues what’s called an import/export fish and wildlife license. However, having a license doesn’t mean you’re able to ship and receive insects as you please. The license simply means you are able to declare that acceptable insects are being shipped and will go through one of the designated ports. Insects are only allowed into the U.S. at certain locations, and each port sets their own protocol.

Exporters and importers also have to provide documentation that proves the insects were acquired legally. At that point the imported insects will get Customs clearance.

Insects on the Registered Plant Pest, Protected or Endangered Lists Are a No-No

Regardless of whether an insect is foreign or domestic, there are some species that absolutely cannot be kept as pets no matter what. Any insect on one of the lists below is illegal to keep.

Registered Plant Pest List: The USDA Registered Plant Pest list specifies all insects that pose a threat to agriculture and therefore need to be carefully controlled.

Threatened/Endangered Species List: Species that are in danger of going extinct are put on the threatened/endangered list. These animals are carefully regulated and handling them is prohibited.

The professional pest control technicians at Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. know how to handle every type of insect, whether or not they’re a pet. We’ll provide a thorough inspection to assess the situation before creating a custom pest control treatment. Give us a call today!

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