If you are looking to purchase a ball python (Python regius) as a pet, you may be wondering about the legality of owning a snake.
This depends on the area, so be sure to look up your local area. So, where is it illegal to own a ball python?
There is only one state where it is illegal to own a ball python. Hawaii bans all pet snakes. Otherwise, it is legal to own a ball python in every other state, but some like Delaware require a permit.
Hawaii has a unique and delicate environment. Many species found on the islands are unique to the state. Many are uniquely vulnerable to predators.
Introduced animals have caused plenty of damage to native species, so they are very careful about what animals are allowed.
Many non-domesticated animals have been banned due to their potential to cause damage to the environment. In the case of snakes, an animal like a ball pythons would face no predators.
The weather of the islands is also warm and humid enough that they would be able to survive and possibly reproduce if multiple animals were released into the wild.
In their native range, ball pythons have predators, diseases, and more to help keep their populations in check.
Ball pythons can survive for over 20 years without pressure from predators, and they can reproduce for most of that time.
Even one pair could create a population. They would eat native mammals and birds and seriously damage populations that are already struggling from other pressures like habitat loss and invasive species.
If you want to move to Hawaii, you would need to give up your snakes and most other reptiles and birds.
At most, you may need a permit. Ball pythons are typically recognized as being low threats to humans and the environment.
Most of the continental United States isn’t hospitable to ball pythons so they are unlikely to survive in the wild if someone does decide to release their pet.
Delaware requires a permit, but this is fairly cheap. You mainly need to show that you have an appropriate enclosure, a secondary barrier like your house to prevent escape, and then you pay a fee to keep or breed a ball python.
Other states have no or unclear regulations.
This is partly because they may have laws surrounding ownership of pythons, but may not specify species or only cover snakes over a certain length.
For instance, a common cut-off is 8 feet, but most ball pythons will not get to that size.
The average length for a ball python is between 4 and 5 feet. Most laws on pythons are trying to regulate large relatives like reticulated pythons and Burmese pythons.
This is because of risks to humans thanks to the size of the snakes. While most of these snakes are not harmful, poor owners have given these species a bad reputation.
You will sometimes see legislation that tries to regulate these species that has unclear language that can target the much smaller and harmless ball pythons.
Areas like Florida are also more likely to have laws like this up for a vote since they have a real problem with invasive Burmese pythons.
While your state may allow ball pythons, it is possible your county or even your city may ban ball pythons. For instance, New York City and San Francisco ban ball python ownership.
You will need to look into your city and county laws. Your local animal control will either know or can point you in the right direction for finding the laws.
Ball pythons typically aren’t covered under native snake ordinances, but it is still a good idea to take a look.
Many localities ban keeping local snakes to help combat the collection and depletion of the wild population.
They may also be covered under the unclear language that was meant to ban large pythons. Thanks to poor owners, there are many laws against owning large snakes.
Be sure to check your laws and specify what species you have if you ask someone. Many people do not know much about snakes, so they may get confused and give you a wrong answer.
Everything you need to know about caring for Ball Pythons in captivity:
Read our Ball Python Care Sheet (Complete Setup & Guide)
Laws are constantly changing. You should pay attention to any proposed animal laws in your area. It isn’t uncommon for initially proposed laws to have poor phrasing that can ban ball pythons and other species that aren’t targeted.
You should always look into the actual language of any animal bill since many legislators do not know anything about snakes.
If you see language banning pythons or boids, that can easily be interpreted to cover ball pythons. If you see language like this, be sure to contact your legislator with your concerns. You can also talk to other reptile keepers and coordinate actions to register your protests.
Petitions can help, but letter-writing campaigns and calls are much more effective for convincing politicians of your points. Keep active in your local political scene and be sure to take action if you are worried.
Ball pythons are popular pets, so it isn’t hard to find plenty of other people who love this wonderful snake.
Your fellow snake-lovers will help make sure that you can keep responsible ball python ownership legal in your area.
Ball pythons are legal in much of the country on a state level. Your county or city may ban the species, so be sure to check in. If you have any comments, be sure to leave them below.