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.
|Alabama||Legal with permit|
|Alaska||Legal with permit|
|Arizona||Legal with permit|
|Colorado||Legal with permit|
|Connecticut||Possibly illegal||Venomous snakes are not listed under dangerous animals|
|Florida||Legal with permit||Owners must have 1000+ hours experience with venomous reptiles|
|Georgia||Legal with permit||Non-venomous pet snakes are illegal in Georgia|
|Hawaii||Illegal||The law helps protect Hawaii’s ecology|
|Idaho||Legal with permit|
|Illinois||Illegal||Legal for educational programs with a permit|
|Indiana||Legal with permit|
|Kansas||Illegal||Except those licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture|
|Louisiana||Legal with permit|
|Maine||Legal with permit|
|Massachusetts||Legal with permit|
|Michigan||Legal with permit|
|Mississippi||Legal with permit|
|Missouri||Legal with permit|
|Montana||Legal||You need a one-time permit to import a rattlesnake into Montana|
|Nevada||Legal with permit|
|New Mexico||Legal with permit|
|New York||Legal with permit|
|North Carolina||Legal with permit||Enclosure must be sturdy/locked|
|North Dakota||Legal with permit|
|Ohio||Legal with permit|
|Oklahoma||Legal with permit||Owners need a Wildlife Breeder’s License, even if they’re not breeding their snakes|
|Pennsylvania||Legal with permit||A license needs to be obtained before capturing the snake|
|Rhode Island||Legal with permit|
|South Carolina||Legal with permit|
|South Dakota||Legal with permit|
|Tennessee||Legal, but with some conditions||Owners should be 21+ with 2 years’ experience. A full-time caretaker must be present.|
|Texas||Legal with permit||Snakes over 6 feet long are not allowed in Houston with or without a permit|
|Utah||Legal with permit||Permits may only be given to zoos, research facilities, educational facilities, and circuses|
|Vermont||Legal with a scientific collection permit|
|Virginia||Can be taken from the wild if they’re a nuisance|
|West Virginia||Legal without permit||The legal limit is one rattlesnake|
|Wisconsin||Legal without a permit in most places||Check with municipal law. Rattlesnakes are illegal in Janesville|
|Wyoming||Legal without a permit in ‘most’ places||Check 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.
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.
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.