Raccoons may look cute, but you might be wondering if you can legally own one as a pet in California. While some states permit raccoon ownership with a permit, California’s laws are much more restrictive regarding exotic animals.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: No, it is illegal to keep a raccoon as a pet in California without a permit, which is nearly impossible to obtain. Only sanctuaries and zoos can legally possess raccoons in the state.

This comprehensive guide covers key details on raccoon ownership laws in California. You’ll learn specifics on possession permits, penalties for illegal ownership, legal alternatives to pet raccoons, and more.

California Laws on Owning and Importing Raccoons

California has strict regulations when it comes to owning and importing raccoons. These laws are in place to protect both the raccoons and the residents of California. It is important for potential raccoon owners to be aware of these laws to avoid any legal issues.

State restrictions on possession

In California, it is illegal to possess a raccoon as a pet without a permit. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates the possession of raccoons and other wildlife species. Permits are only granted for specific reasons, such as wildlife rehabilitation or educational purposes.

If someone is found in possession of a raccoon without a permit, they can face legal consequences. It is crucial to understand that raccoons are wild animals and can pose a risk to both humans and other animals if not properly cared for.

Penalties for illegal ownership

The penalties for illegally owning a raccoon in California can be severe. Violators can face fines, imprisonment, or both. The exact penalties depend on the circumstances and the severity of the offense.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife takes these violations seriously in order to protect the native wildlife population and ensure public safety. It is important to respect these regulations and not attempt to own a raccoon without the proper permits.

Municipal and county regulations

In addition to state regulations, municipalities and counties in California may have their own specific regulations regarding the ownership of raccoons. It is essential to research and comply with local laws before considering owning a raccoon.

Some cities or counties may have outright bans on owning raccoons as pets, while others may have specific requirements or restrictions. It is advisable to contact the local animal control or wildlife authorities to inquire about any additional regulations that may apply.

Remember, these regulations are in place for the well-being of both the raccoons and the community. It is vital to respect and abide by them to ensure the safety and welfare of everyone involved.

Applying for a Possession Permit in California

If you are considering owning a raccoon as a pet in California, it is important to understand the laws and regulations surrounding this issue. In California, owning a raccoon is not as simple as bringing one home and making it a part of your family.

You must first obtain a possession permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

Eligibility and application requirements

To be eligible for a possession permit, individuals must meet certain criteria set by the CDFW. These criteria typically include having a secure and appropriate enclosure for the raccoon, demonstrating the ability to provide proper care, and proving that owning a raccoon is in the best interest of the animal’s welfare.

Additionally, applicants may need to provide references, submit to a background check, and complete a training course on raccoon care.

It is important to note that the possession permit is not a guarantee. The CDFW carefully reviews each application and considers factors such as the applicant’s experience with exotic animals, their knowledge of raccoon behavior and needs, and their ability to provide a safe and suitable environment for the animal.

Low approval rates for pet owners

While it is technically possible for individuals to own a raccoon as a pet in California, the approval rates for possession permits are generally low. The CDFW prioritizes the welfare and conservation of wildlife, and as such, they are cautious about granting permits for exotic animals like raccoons to private individuals.

This means that even if you meet all the eligibility requirements, there is a significant chance that your application may be denied.

Before applying for a possession permit, it is recommended to research and understand the specific guidelines and expectations set by the CDFW. This will help you prepare a strong application and increase your chances of approval.

High fees and inspection costs

In addition to the low approval rates, it is important to consider the financial implications of owning a raccoon in California. The possession permit application process can be quite expensive, with fees ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the complexity of the application and the number of animals being applied for.

It is also important to note that periodic inspections may be required, which can incur additional costs.

Considering the low approval rates and the financial commitments involved, it is crucial to carefully weigh the pros and cons of owning a raccoon as a pet in California. It may be worth exploring alternative ways to enjoy raccoons, such as volunteering at wildlife rehabilitation centers or supporting local conservation efforts.

For more information on the possession permit application process and raccoon ownership regulations in California, it is advisable to visit the official website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife: www.wildlife.ca.gov.

Legal Alternatives to Keeping a Pet Raccoon

While it may be tempting to own a pet raccoon in California, it is important to note that it is illegal to do so. However, there are several legal alternatives that can satisfy your love for wildlife and help you make a positive impact on their well-being.

Opting for domesticated pets

If you are looking for a furry companion, there are plenty of domesticated pets that can bring joy and companionship into your life. Dogs and cats, for example, are popular choices and can provide endless love and affection.

They are also readily available from animal shelters and rescue organizations, giving you the opportunity to provide a home to an animal in need.

Volunteering at wildlife sanctuaries

For those who have a passion for wildlife, volunteering at wildlife sanctuaries can be a rewarding experience. These sanctuaries provide a safe and natural environment for animals that cannot be released back into the wild.

By volunteering, you can contribute to the well-being of these animals and learn more about their behaviors and conservation efforts.

Fostering through rehabilitation centers

Another way to make a difference in the lives of animals is by fostering through rehabilitation centers. These centers work towards rehabilitating injured or orphaned animals with the goal of releasing them back into their natural habitats.

By fostering, you can provide temporary care and help these animals on their journey to recovery.

Caring for a Raccoon Under California Law

Providing proper enclosure and diet

Owning a raccoon as a pet in California requires adhering to certain regulations and providing proper care. One of the key aspects of caring for a raccoon is ensuring that it has a suitable enclosure. According to California law, raccoons must be housed in a secure and escape-proof enclosure to prevent them from roaming freely and potentially causing harm to themselves or others.

It is important to provide a spacious and stimulating environment that includes climbing structures, hiding spots, and toys to keep the raccoon mentally and physically stimulated.

In terms of diet, raccoons are omnivorous animals and have specific dietary requirements. Their diet should consist of a balanced mix of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and protein sources such as eggs or insects.

It is important to consult with a veterinarian or a wildlife rehabilitation expert to ensure that you are providing the appropriate diet for your pet raccoon.

Obtaining routine veterinary care

Just like any other pet, raccoons require routine veterinary care to ensure their health and well-being. It is important to find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about raccoon care and can provide the necessary vaccinations and check-ups.

Regular veterinary visits can help detect any health issues early on and prevent potential problems from escalating. Additionally, raccoons should be spayed or neutered to prevent overpopulation and aggression.

Avoiding threats to public health and safety

While owning a raccoon may be legal in California, it is crucial to prioritize public health and safety. Raccoons are wild animals, and even if they are domesticated, they retain some of their natural instincts. This can pose a risk to both the raccoon and the people around it.

It is important to take necessary precautions to avoid potential threats. This includes securing the enclosure to prevent escapes, properly disposing of waste to prevent the spread of diseases, and ensuring that the raccoon does not come into contact with other domestic animals or wildlife.

For more information on owning a raccoon in California and the specific regulations and guidelines, you can refer to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/.

It is always recommended to consult with experts and professionals in wildlife rehabilitation and veterinary care to ensure the well-being of any exotic pet, including raccoons.


Due to public health and safety concerns, it is illegal in California to possess a pet raccoon without proper permitting, which is granted sparingly. While their cute appearance may be endearing, raccoons require specific care and legal authorization. For those passionate about raccoons, legal alternatives like volunteering at sanctuaries allow you to learn about and assist the species while maintaining compliance with California regulations.

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