Hedgehogs first started to become household pets in the 1980s in North America. As more people took care of these cute prickly mammals, their population increased as well. For this reason, the authorities had concerns that hedgies that have escaped their humans or have been released into the wild could become an invasive species, a risk to the native wildlife and natural resources.
It must be noted that African pygmy hedgehogs (Atelerix Albiventris) also known as four-toed hedgehogs are not native to the Americas, thus the official category “exotic pets”.
That means they don’t have any natural predators, and uncontrolled growth of these insectivores could threaten the local insect population. This could potentially unbalance the state’s ecosystem and cause widespread and long-lasting damage.
A counter-argument to this is that hedgies are not tolerant of the local climate. As such, those who are released in the wild are unlikely to multiply and thrive. So, they cannot cause any impact on local wildlife.
Since several decades have already passed since four-toed African pygmy hedgies were first bred in the United States, several states and municipalities now allow pet ownership. However, there are still a few who do not.
To help you navigate hedgehogs’ complicated legal status, I’ve prepared a list of states and breakdown their position on pet hedgies. I divided them into three sections: no permit required, permit required, and totally illegal. I’ll also include some links to determine how to get a hedgehog license and why some areas ban them.
I also added other countries in my research – their hedgehog ownership laws and a short explanation of their stand.
Please note that the hedgehogs listed below relate to the commonly-bred four-toed or African pygmy hedgehog. While some other hedgehog species are bred as pets, such as the Algerian Hedgehog, Egyptian Long-Eared Hedgehog, and the Indian Long-Eared Hedgehog, they have a different legal status from the African pygmy hedgie.
Furthermore, European hedgehogs are generally considered as a protected species and cannot be domesticated and kept as pets.
United States of America
The US is one of the more complicated countries to own a hedgehog in. Although hedgies are allowed in most of the country, there are several states which either require a permit or don’t allow them at all.
Some municipalities and counties don’t allow them either, even if the rest of the state lets you have a pet hedgehog. Although this list is up to date at the time of writing, laws, and regulations tend to change over time so it never hurts to check with your local branch of the Department of Fish and Game.
No Permit Required
These states allow anyone to own a pet hedgehog! That means you can get them from any licensed breeder or pet shop without any problems at all.
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- Washington, DC
- West Virginia
Some states have a more complicated ruling on Hedgehogs.
Hedgehogs are considered as a Class III wildlife by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Animals classified under this require a permit for personal ownership, public exhibition, and sale.
However, we are thankful because hedgies are included in the state’s list of animals exempted from the permit requirement, but only as a pet. If you want to showcase or sell them, a permit from the government is still required.
In general, the state of New York allows pet ownership of hedgehogs. However, this does not apply to New York City. The five boroughs of NYC – Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan – do not allow hedgehogs to be kept as pets.
The New York City health code declares that wild animals are unsuitable to be kept at home. And since hedgehogs are regarded as such, they’re illegal to own within the city limits.
As of now, only one state requires a permit to owning a hedgie. This helps them keep track of pet owners and ensure that the exotic little hogs are well-taken cared of. They also do this to avoid the illegal import of hogs, as they might be disease carriers.
According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regulations (7:25-4.5), animals and wildlife not covered by their exemption (7:25-4.4) require a permit for ownership. Unfortunately, hedgehogs aren’t listed in the exemption, so a license is required.
However, don’t despair. Securing a permit from the New Jersey State Government is a relatively affordable and straightforward procedure. You just need to fill out and mail this PDF form from the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and include a $10.00 check or money order for the processing fee.
If you purchased your little hog from a local pet shop, you should receive a temporary permit from them. Don’t forget to include this in your application! Otherwise, it won’t be approved. If your hedgie came from out of state and didn’t have a temporary permit, then send copies of all documentation that you’ve received.
If you have more questions, you can visit the DFW’s FAQs page, send them an email, or give them a call at 908-735-5450.
Illegal to Own
There are only four states that disallow pet hedgie ownership: California, Georgia, Hawaii, and Pennsylvania. Even if our little hogs are cute and harmless, we must still obey the law and not get into any trouble.
According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, hedgehogs aren’t allowed as pets because of the “many unknown questions related to natural predators and potential diseases when any non-native animal is introduced into the wild.”
While there have been a couple of petitions to change the law, there weren’t enough supporters to let the movement gather steam.
The California State also isn’t changing their stand on hedgies because it could pave the wave for similar requests for other species, which could put the state’s rich biodiversity at risk.
Unfortunately, our beloved hedgies are included in the ban by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources: Law Enforcement Division. The state’s reason is similar to that of California’s – where released or escaped domesticated hedgehogs could potentially wreak havoc on the local ecosystem.
The government also cited that hedgies present public health and livestock concerns, as they are potential salmonella and foot-and-mouth disease carriers.
Hedgie lovers say that while this may be true, other pets like dogs, cats, and rodents can be sources of infections as well. As long as proper precautions are taken, as with any other pet, hedgies are perfectly safe companions for humans.
There have been multiple attempts to legalize hedgehog ownership in Georgia, with a bill being introduced in 2018 into the state senate allowing licensing and permits for would be hedgie owners. However, it wasn’t passed into law.
Even so, several hedgie parents are still working with some state legislators to clear the little hog’s legal status.
As a tropical island with numerous species unique to them, hedgehogs aren’t allowed in the state at all. Since Hawaii is located near the equator, its climate is very well suited for hedgies. With no natural predators, these little hogs could run amok on the island.
Hawaiian authorities’ primary concern is that a runaway hedgehog population could decimate their native tree snails and other insects.
This state has a rather colorful history when it comes to hedgies. According to some stories, hedgehogs were initially allowed within the state, provided they were born in Pennsylvania. However, several breeders violated this law by importing new bloodlines from out of state.
This led the Pennsylvania Game Commission to put out a blanket ban on all hedgies. They even raided these breeders’ homes and confiscated all their little hogs, as if they were Pablo Escobar himself. While I can’t find any first-hand source for this raid, a local University paper did warn against owning one.
Be that as it may, there were some attempts to change this law. Way back in 2011, elementary students from Allentown lobbied their representatives to lift the ban. They introduced House Bill 1398 for this measure, but it failed to pass congress.
This was attempted again in 2013 and 2018, but, unfortunately, these bills failed to pass either the congress or the senate as well. Hopefully, this year, we see some progress on the legal status of the hedgehog.
The US’s friendly neighbor up north generally allows hedgehogs, except for two cities – Langley, British Columbia and Windsor, Ontario. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any explanation on why this is the case.
The four-toed African pygmy hedgehog may be legally kept as pets, but other species, such as the European hedgehog, isn’t. You’re also not allowed to kill or capture hedgies from the wild, so if you want one, you should approach a licensed breeder.
Hedgehogs naturally exist in the UK. You might actually find some of them in your garden hedges! Since they consume plant pests, having them in your backyard is actually beneficial for your plants.
However, as I said earlier, you shouldn’t heavily interfere with them. You can leave some food for your guest hedgies, like mealworms, and maybe a small bed of leaves – but you shouldn’t put them in a cage or touch them!
Under the Republic of Ireland Wildlife Acts, hedgehogs are listed as a protected species. As such, possession of hedgehogs, whether dead or alive, is illegal. However, people are encouraged to allow hedgehogs to take residence in their backyards and gardens.
Unfortunately, hedgehogs are totally banned in Australia. This is because the country’s warm weather is very conducive to the hedgehog population. Since they also have no natural predators in the subcontinent, there’s a greater chance that their numbers could grow unchecked and cause damage to the ecosystem.
According to the New South Wales government, hedgehogs could wipe out populations of snails, lizards, and ground-nesting birds with their voracious omnivorous appetite.
This has happened to Australia in the past, where the Cane Toad was introduced to help reduce Cane Beetle infestations in farms. However, since they do not have any natural predators in the country and are poisonous to native animals, their numbers have steadily grown.
There are an estimated 200 million cane toads in the country today, and the government is looking for ways to control them.
Currently, the national government wants to avoid a repeat of this scenario; that’s why they’re banning all hedgehogs from the country.
Although New Zealand law doesn’t explicitly bar hedgehog pet ownership, society, in general, treat them as pests. Even if they help urban gardens thrive because they eat insects that negatively affect plants, they eat the eggs and chicks of different bird populations when they make their way into the native bush, forests, and other open spaces.
For this reason, the government actually encourages the active trapping and control of hedgies.
The Rest of the European Countries
For the rest of the European countries, European hedgehogs are a protected species and thus, cannot be kept as pets, although the four-toed African Pygmy hedgehogs can be legally kept as pets. These countries include:
In Spain, both species are illegal altogether.
The Case for Hedgie Legality
Hedgehogs are generally small, harmless, and easy-to-manage pets, provided that you know how to care for them correctly. They also do not pose a threat to other wildlife populations, depending on the location.
Some states and territories, such as Hawaii and Australia, are right to ban them outright, as their climates could allow hedgehog populations to grow unchecked. Without a natural predator, there is a chance for hedgehogs to become a pest and upset the local ecosystem.
However, for colder places like Canada and the Northern US, hedgehogs will not survive their cold winters, so there is little chance for them to grow out of control.
No matter where you’re located, hedgehogs are still excellent small pets to keep in the house – if you know what you’re doing. Just make sure to read up on laws and ask forums about your desired pet’s legality before making any purchase. If you’re still not sure, you can always contact your local government for confirmation.
Remember, a responsible hedgie parent should know everything about taking care of a hedgie! From their cage’s size and their exercise needs to their veterinary health care requirements and legal status, you should research these before making any move.
Only when you’ve studied the ownership and care of a hedgehog should you purchase one. When you do that, I guarantee that your hedgehog will live a happy life, and you’ll have a fulfilling relationship with your little hog.