Yes, it is legal to own a pet sloth in Texas. Texas is one of the most lenient states regarding pet ownership in the U.S. These are often referred to as exotic animals or exotic pets. However, just because you can own an exotic animal like a sloth, it does not mean that you should. There are several things to consider before purchasing and owning any kind of sloth.

Exotic Animals

There are varying definitions for exotic animals and pets. The most basic meaning is any type of animal that is out of the normal bounds of pet-ownership. “Normal” animals include dogs, cats, and farm animals. Generally, they are not considered an exotic pet if it is easy to find care for them at a local veterinarian.

Some common animals that are found in pet stores can be classified as exotic animals. These include types of rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, reptiles, insects, and spiders. While they may be considered common to some, not all veterinarians are trained in their care. This means that owners may need to seek out specialized locations for care, feeding, and medical emergencies.

One main way that many identify an exotic animal is to consider whether it is domesticated or still considered wild. This is different from an animal being tame. It may take several generations of breeding before a specific animal is considered domesticated. Since the definition of an exotic pet varies so much, what is considered exotic depends on the laws and regulations of the location you live in.

Texas Laws on Exotic Animals

The regulation of animal possession is controlled by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife. With that being said, there are very few rules and regulations regarding the ownership of exotic pets. The state defines an exotic animal as “any animal that is not indigenous to Texas…” Most laws regulate what you can and cannot hunt in the state. Certain animals are listed as illegal to “possess” or own.

The state’s main law requires that any dangerous wild animal have a certificate of registration or license. This means that you can privately own a lion, tiger, bear, or chimp if you get the correct permit. There are exceptions to this for government agencies, circuses, injured animals transported for care, university mascots, and animals designated for animal research. There are no regulations for non-dangerous animal ownership like small monkeys, capybaras, or sloths.

Some species are banned from ownership in Texas. These include armadillos, diamondback terrapin snake, or freshwater turtle. It is also forbidden from taking any wild animals to own them from public land or public roads. Other banned animals include any that are currently under a statewide rabies quarantine. As of 2020, this included coyotes. Foxes and raccoons have also been banned under the same quarantine.

It is unlawful to hunt endangered, threatened, or otherwise protected animals as designated by the state. However, only some of those subspecies are illegal to own. Currently, it is illegal to own an Eastern Timber Rattlesnake or an Indigo Snake. Protected birds like hawks, owls, falcons, and eagles are also mostly illegal to own. You also cannot own a bat because of rabies, but you are free to kill them if you see them.

Issues with Owning Exotic Animals

Sloths are not the best candidate for a pet companion. They require a specialized and sometimes expensive diet. They also require a humid and warm environment. They could die if exposed to weather that is too cold. You also need to possess several trees with high branches, as a sloth pet will feel most comfortable suspended from a tree.

Exotic animals are not always used to human touch and behaviors. Humans are also not always aware of the specific care needed for certain types of exotic animals. This can be a dangerous mix where the animal could either inadvertently or purposefully hurt someone.

If you own an exotic pet, you may be liable for any injuries that it causes. This could be minor injuries like from a bite or a scratch. It could also be from more serious harm caused by an attack or an illness you contract from the animal. It could even be possible for your animal to cause life-long harm or death to a person or another animal. If this happens, you could be sued and have to compensate the other person for their injury, medical bills, lost wages, and any other damages that the court awards.