Is it legal to own a great white shark?
No. Great white sharks are a protected species in the waters where they are found. If captured, they must be released immediately. It is illegal to fish for these animals.
Because they are open water fish and must continuously swim in order to breathe, great white sharks do not do well in captivity. Adult great white sharks require a diet that is difficult to provide in captivity. Attempts by aquariums to house great white sharks have either led to their eventual release or their death.
What kinds of sharks can people own?
Though great white sharks are illegal to own, some sharks can be kept in captivity. Here is a list of sharks that you can keep in freshwater fish tanks:
- Rainbow sharks
- Roseline torpedo sharks
- Bala sharks
- Harlequin sharks
- Red-tail black sharks
If you have a large saltwater tank, these bigger sharks can be kept:
- Marbled catshark
- Coral catshark
- Gray bamboo shark
- White-spotted bamboo shark
- California horn shark
- Brown-banded bamboo shark
- Epaulette shark
- Japanese wobbegong
- Blacktip or whitetip sharks
The largest shark on this list can grow to nearly 5 feet in length, so you will need at least 1,000 gallons of water to safely keep them.
How do I find out if a type of pet is legal to own?
There are federal, state and local laws about keeping wild, exotic, and domesticated animals as pets. Generally, federal laws ban ownership of endangered and protected species throughout the country.
Other unusual pets may be prohibited on the state or local level to prevent invasive species and deter pet owners from releasing an unwanted animal into the wild. For example, ferrets are illegal to own in California and Hawaii. Some exotic pets require USDA, state, or local permits. To find out what is and is not legal in your area, contact the local animal control agency. They may be able to tell you about the pet laws in your community or point you in the right direction. If you cannot find the information you need, or have a specific question, you can contact a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for help.
Are fish protected by animal cruelty laws?
No. The federal Animal Welfare Act does not protect fish. Fish are not protected under the Humane Slaughter Act and other federal animal welfare laws. Some states may have laws that protect fish, and every state requires a fishing license, but under federal laws, fish have little protection. Notably, while sharks may not have these protections because sharks are fish, sea mammals, like dolphins, manatees, whales, penguins, and seals, are protected by federal laws.
Do I need a Pet Trust?
If you decide that a shark or other exotic pet is for you, or just a dog or cat, a Pet Trust can help ensure your animal has the care it needs after you bring it home, even if friends and family are not willing to shoulder the burden when you cannot. A Pet Trust is a legal document that will allow a pet’s owner to designate a trustee or caretaker, and to set aside assets for the trustee to ensure the pet is cared for properly during its lifetime.
You can always reach out to an attorney through the Rocket Lawyer Mobile App anywhere and on any device to ask legal questions you may have about pet ownership.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.