Can You Legally Own A Tiger?

Last updated on March 18th, 2023 at 09:47 pm

Can you legally own a tiger? Before making your decision to own a tiger, read up on the legality of such an action and discover all you need to know right here.
Image Credit: Clovis Wood Photography/Unsplash

Exotic animals have long been a fascination for humans. From lions and tigers to monkeys and snakes, there’s something about owning a wild animal that appeals to many people. However, owning an exotic animal is not as simple as bringing it home and treating it like a domestic pet. The laws and regulations surrounding exotic animal ownership are complex, and owning a tiger, in particular, is fraught with legal and ethical considerations.

In this discussion, we’ll delve into the legalities of owning a tiger, both in the United States and on other continents. We’ll also explore the ethical concerns surrounding owning tigers as pets, as well as alternatives to owning a tiger. By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of the legal and ethical implications of owning a tiger.

Legal Status Of Owning A Tiger

In the United States, owning a tiger as a pet is legal in some states, but the regulations vary. The federal government regulates big cats, and owning a tiger falls under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The ESA prohibits trading, selling, and transporting endangered species across state borders, while the AWA enforces minimum standards for animal care.

States That Allow Owning A Tiger:

Owning a tiger is legal in the following states:

  • Alabama

In Alabama, owning a tiger with permission from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is legal. The state also has strict enclosure requirements for tigers, including protective fencing and enough space to move around.

  • Nevada

You can own a tiger in Nevada with a state Department of Wildlife permit. The owner must also keep the animal in an adequately sized cage and provide proper care.

  • North Carolina

Owning a tiger in North Carolina without a permit is legal, but certain cage and enclosure requirements must be met.

  • Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, you can own a tiger with a state Department of Natural Resources permit. The owner must also meet other requirements, such as providing adequate food and water, vaccinations, and shelter.

  • Delaware

This is another state that allows you to own a tiger with a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

  • Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, owning a tiger with a permit from the state Department of Wildlife Conservation is legal. The cage requirements must meet their standards as well.

However, even if your state allows owning a tiger, it’s crucial to check your local county and city regulations. Some cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit owning a tiger as a pet.

Can You Legally Own A Tiger In Other Continents?

While the laws and regulations surrounding tiger ownership in the United States are complex, the rules in other continents can be even more so.

Here is the legal status of owning a tiger in other continents:


In Asia, owning a tiger is illegal in most countries. The only exceptions are India and Nepal, where it’s legal with a permit from the government. Considering the widespread poaching and illegal trafficking of tigers, it’s crucial to check with local authorities before owning a tiger in these two countries.


In Europe, owning a tiger is illegal in most countries. The only exception is Austria, which allows owning a tiger with permission from the government. The government requires the owner to meet specific criteria, such as providing appropriate living space and having a veterinarian who specializes in big cats.


In Africa, owning a tiger is illegal in most countries. The only exceptions are South Africa and Zimbabwe, which allow owning a tiger with permission from the government.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, owning a tiger is illegal in most cases. It is considered a wildlife offense and carries a significant fine. There are exceptions in some cases, such as if the tiger is used for educational or scientific purposes.

Risks Of Owning A Tiger

Owning a tiger is not only a significant financial investment, but it also poses significant risks. Tigers are large, powerful, and unpredictable animals. Even well-trained tigers can pose a threat to human life. Tigers are natural hunters and need a large living space and a special diet, which can be expensive.

Moreover, tiger owners must consider the risk of escape and potential harm to the public. Tigers require proper handling, and owners need specialized knowledge to care for them. Failure to provide appropriate care can lead to the tiger’s death or injury to the owner and the public.

Additionally, releasing a tiger into the wild can have severe environmental consequences. Tigers may spread diseases to native wildlife, compete with them for food and habitat, and disrupt the local ecosystem.

What You Need When Owning A Tiger

Exotic Animal Permits

Exotic animal permits are required by many states prior to owning any large or wild cat such as a tiger. In most cases, applicants need to provide proof that they have sufficient experience handling and caring for wild animals in addition to submitting an application fee. It is also important to note that some states may not allow private citizens any access to these permits unless they work for zoos or wildlife sanctuaries.

Laws Regulating Tiger Ownership

It is also crucial for potential owners to familiarize themselves with laws that regulate the ownership of tigers. These include state regulations concerning housing, food, health care and veterinary care for the animal, as well as local ordinances concerning noise and nuisance factors often associated with owning large cats such as tigers. Furthermore, federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act may also prevent people from acquiring certain types of tigers due to protections granted to particular species of this majestic animal.

Potential Pitfalls & Responsibilities

Along with legal considerations in mind, potential owners must understand that keeping an exotic pet like a tiger requires both monetary resources and time commitments. This includes providing proper shelter, enough food and water supply as well as regular veterinary checkups which can add up quickly over time. On top of financial obligations, potential owners must also be aware that they will be taking on full responsibility in providing a safe environment for their pet while protecting it from potential danger outside its enclosures. Lastly, before acquiring a tiger or other exotic animals one should ask themselves if they can truly provide adequate care for an animal of this caliber over an extended period of time.


Owning a tiger requires significant financial investment, including purchasing liability insurance. Liability insurance covers the costs of damages caused by the tiger.

Local Regulations

As mentioned earlier, local regulations vary from county to county and city to city. Before owning a tiger, it’s crucial to check with your local authorities to understand the local laws and regulations.

Ethical Concerns Surrounding Owning a Tiger

Beyond the legal considerations, there are also serious ethical concerns surrounding the ownership of tigers as pets. Tigers are wild animals that require specific living conditions and care that are difficult to replicate in a home environment. They require large amounts of space to roam and hunt, and they need a specialized diet that can be expensive to maintain. Keeping a tiger as a pet can also be dangerous. Tigers are large, powerful animals that can cause serious harm to humans. Even trained professionals who work with tigers regularly are at risk of injury or death.

Furthermore, the demand for tigers as pets has led to a black market for tiger cubs, which are often taken from their mothers at a young age and sold to buyers who have no experience caring for them. This can lead to serious health and behavioral issues for the animals.


Owning a tiger is an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s important to understand the legal and practical implications. Having a tiger as a pet is legal in some states in the United States but comes with significant risks and responsibilities. The overall cost of owning a tiger is high and requires plenty of dedication. Before deciding to own a tiger, make sure you’ve consulted with local authorities and have the necessary permits and licenses. Most importantly, be prepared to provide a safe and healthy environment for your tiger to live in.