Can You Keep a Rattlesnake as a Pet?

Keeping rattlesnakes as pets is a life-long dream for some snake enthusiasts. However, despite their beautiful patterns and fascinating behaviors, rattlesnakes are dangerously venomous to humans. A single rattlesnake bite can lead to severe health complications and even death.

You can own a rattlesnake in most states as long as you have a permit. Some states, such as California, don’t even require owners to have a permit. However, it is illegal to keep rattlesnakes in some states, including Delaware, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.

Owning a rattlesnake is a huge responsibility. Rattlesnakes are highly skilled escape artists and can get out of even the sturdiest enclosures. A rattlesnake on the loose can be extremely problematic, as it can be a threat to you, the people and pets living in your home, and your community.

State Laws on Owning Rattlesnake

Most states require owners to obtain a yearly permit before owning a rattlesnake. The price of a permit is different in each U.S. state.

Most states do not provide permits. Therefore, it is completely illegal to own a rattlesnake or any other venomous snake in such places.

AlabamaLegal with permit
AlaskaLegal with permit
ArizonaLegal with permit
ArkansasLegal
California Legal
ColoradoLegal with permit
ConnecticutPossibly illegalVenomous snakes are not listed under dangerous animals
DelawareIllegal
FloridaLegal with permitOwners must have 1000+ hours experience with venomous reptiles
GeorgiaLegal with permitNon-venomous pet snakes are illegal in Georgia
HawaiiIllegalThe law helps protect Hawaii’s ecology
IdahoLegal with permit
IllinoisIllegalLegal for educational programs with a permit
IndianaLegal with permit
IowaIllegal
KansasIllegalExcept those licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
KentuckyIllegal
LouisianaLegal with permit
MaineLegal with permit
MassachusettsLegal with permit
MichiganLegal with permit
MississippiLegal with permit
MissouriLegal with permit
MontanaLegalYou need a one-time permit to import a rattlesnake into Montana
NebraskaLegal
NevadaLegal with permit
New HampshireIllegal
New JerseyIllegal
New MexicoLegal with permit
New YorkLegal with permit
North CarolinaLegal with permitEnclosure must be sturdy/locked
North DakotaLegal with permit
OhioLegal with permit
OklahomaLegal with permitOwners need a Wildlife Breeder’s License, even if they’re not breeding their snakes
OregonIllegal
PennsylvaniaLegal with permitA license needs to be obtained before capturing the snake
Rhode IslandLegal with permit
South CarolinaLegal with permit
South DakotaLegal with permit
Tennessee Legal, but with some conditionsOwners should be 21+ with 2 years’ experience. A full-time caretaker must be present.
TexasLegal with permitSnakes over 6 feet long are not allowed in Houston with or without a permit
UtahLegal with permitPermits may only be given to zoos, research facilities, educational facilities, and circuses
VermontLegal with a scientific collection permit
VirginiaCan be taken from the wild if they’re a nuisance
WashingtonIllegal
West VirginiaLegal without permitThe legal limit is one rattlesnake
WisconsinLegal without a permit in most placesCheck with municipal law. Rattlesnakes are illegal in Janesville
WyomingLegal without a permit in ‘most’ placesCheck local laws

Important: Laws are subject to interpretation and change. Check for up-to-date state laws on owning a pet rattlesnake with your own attorney!

Do Rattlesnakes Make Good Pets?

Most rattlesnakes are captured from the wild. Therefore, they are hardwired to bite people in defense. Rattlesnakes cannot be trained or tamed, but can learn not to see you as a threat. However, this takes time. When a rattlesnake strikes, it can release enough venom to kill a person, or at least cause severe health complications.

owning a rattlesnake

According to Pediatric Emergency Care, these complications can include coagulation disorders, hemolysis, local necrosis, paresthesia, acute renal failure, and paresthesia. Another study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine examined a 41-year old man who suffered a life-threatening airway obstruction followed by a rattlesnake bite to his tongue.

While owning a rattlesnake, you will need to adhere to certain rules:

  • Do not walk around your home in the dark
  • Make sure your snake is locked safely in its enclosure at all times
  • Don’t make sudden movements around a rattlesnake

If you have any children, elderly individuals, or disabled people in your home, keeping a rattlesnake is strictly not recommended. They’re more likely to suffer from severe complications or death if bitten.

If you own a dog, keep your rattlesnake locked away. Dogs can construe the rattling sound made as an invitation to play.

Can You Remove a Rattlesnake’s Fangs?

It is possible to remove a rattlesnake’s fangs, or venom glands. Removing the venom glands is preferred since a snake’s fangs grow back quickly. Snakes that have their venom glands removed are called ‘venomoids.’

Unfortunately, this isn’t approved veterinary practice. Few vets will perform this procedure, so it’s normally performed by breeders and owners. It’s very painful for the snake after the operation, and the wounds incurred from the procedure frequently result in mouth rot.

is it legal to have a pet rattlesnake?

Even if you get a snake’s venom glands removed, it may not be a permanent solution. It’s believed that the venom glands grow back. If they do grow back, the snake is able to issue a venomous bite. Even a venomoid can give you a nasty bite with their very long fangs.

The Cost of Rattlesnake Ownership

There are very few rattlesnake breeders. Rattlers give birth to live young, and it can be difficult to separate young rattlesnakes from their mother.

Most rattlesnakes are wild-caught and require veterinary care before they’re brought home. Rattlesnakes must be treated for parasites and routinely examined for illnesses. Finding a vet that specializes in wild-caught rattlesnakes, and is willing to do so, is another hurdle.

You also need to purchase antivenin, which is a medication for rattlesnake bites. Antivenin can cost up to $3,000 per vial. According to CMAJ, a 25-year-old man bitten by a rattlesnake in the Eastern Georgian Bay region of Ontario required 32 vials of Antivipmyn for his treatment.

In addition to a highly-secure terrarium, you need a shift box to keep the snake when it’s out of its enclosure. A shift box prevents a snake from escaping while you clean its terrarium. A shift box can cost anywhere around $80 to $150.

Keeping rattlesnakes as pets is uncommon because they’re extremely dangerous animals. In zoological and wildlife facilities, there are at least two caregivers during feeding, cleaning and moving venomous snakes. Even though some states allow owners to keep rattlesnakes, they have very strict requirements before you can even get a permit.

Cite this article:

MLA Style: Carter, Lou. “Can You Keep a Rattlesnake as a Pet?” Snakes For Pets, (March 12, 2020), https://www.snakesforpets.com/can-you-keep-a-rattlesnake-as-a-pet/.

APA Style: Carter, L. (March 12, 2020). Can You Keep a Rattlesnake as a Pet?. Rabbit Care Tips. Retrieved [Month, day, year], from https://www.snakesforpets.com/can-you-keep-a-rattlesnake-as-a-pet/

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