Is It Legal To Own A Monkey In California?

Wondering if it’s legal to own a monkey in California? Before you start imagining your own adorable primate companion, it’s crucial to understand the state’s laws regarding exotic pets. In California, it is generally illegal to own monkeys as pets. The state has strict regulations in place to protect both the animals and the public. However, there are some exceptions for licensed facilities and individuals who meet specific criteria. Let’s delve into the details and explore the legal implications of owning a monkey in California.

is it legal to own a monkey in california

Permits and Licensing for Owning a Monkey in California

Owning a monkey as a pet can be an exciting and unique experience. However, before you bring a monkey into your home, it’s important to understand the legal requirements and permits needed to own one in the state of California. California has specific laws and regulations in place to ensure the welfare and safety of both the monkeys and the general public.

1. Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit:

If you are planning to rescue and rehabilitate a monkey, you will need to obtain a Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This permit allows you to possess and care for injured or orphaned monkeys temporarily until they can be released back into the wild.

2. Restricted Species Permit:

Monkeys are considered restricted species in California, which means you need to obtain a Restricted Species Permit from the CDFW. This permit is required for anyone who wants to possess, import, transport, sell, or offer monkeys for sale in the state. It is important to note that these permits are granted on a case-by-case basis, and not everyone may be eligible.

3. USDA License:

In addition to state permits, owning a monkey may also require a license from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA oversees the welfare of animals in captivity and ensures that they receive proper care and treatment. The specific license required will depend on the number of monkeys you own and the purpose of ownership (pet, exhibition, breeding, etc.).

4. Local City and County Restrictions:

Aside from state and federal permits, it is essential to check with your local city and county authorities for any additional permits or regulations regarding the ownership of monkeys. Some cities may have stricter rules or even ban the ownership of certain primate species altogether. It is crucial to comply with all local laws to avoid legal issues and penalties.

5. Responsible Ownership:

Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses is just the first step in owning a monkey in California. It is equally important to be a responsible and informed owner. Monkeys require specialized care, including a proper diet, a suitable living environment, and regular veterinary check-ups. It is also crucial to understand the social and behavioral needs of monkeys to ensure their well-being.

In summary, owning a monkey in California requires obtaining various permits and licenses, including a Wildlife Rehabilitation Permit, Restricted Species Permit, and possibly a USDA license. Additionally, it is crucial to comply with any local city and county restrictions. Owning a monkey comes with great responsibility, and ensuring their welfare should be a top priority for any potential owner.

Potential Risks and Dangers of Owning a Monkey in California

Owning a monkey as a pet may seem like an exciting and unique idea, but it is important to consider the potential risks and dangers associated with monkey ownership, especially in the state of California. While monkeys can be intelligent and entertaining companions, their natural instincts and needs can pose significant challenges for owners.

Lack of Domestication

It is crucial to understand that monkeys are not domesticated animals like dogs or cats. They are wild animals that have complex social structures and specific environmental requirements. Despite being bred in captivity, monkeys retain their wild instincts, which can lead to unpredictable behavior and potential danger to both owners and the public.

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Physical and Emotional Needs

Monkeys have specific physical and emotional needs that can be difficult to fulfill in a domestic setting. They require ample space to climb and exercise, specialized diets, and mentally stimulating activities. Failure to meet these needs can result in stress, aggression, and destructive behavior.

Legal Restrictions

In California, there are strict laws and regulations regarding the ownership of primates. Currently, it is illegal to own most species of monkeys as pets in the state. Violating these laws can lead to fines, confiscation of the animal, and potential legal consequences.

Health Risks

Monkeys can potentially carry zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted to humans. These diseases, such as herpes B virus and tuberculosis, can cause severe illness or even death. Additionally, monkeys have sharp teeth and strong jaws, which can lead to serious bites and injuries if they feel threatened or scared.

Financial Burden

Owning a monkey can be a significant financial burden. They require specialized veterinary care, high-quality diets, appropriate housing, and enrichment. The cost of these requirements can quickly add up, and it is important to consider these expenses before deciding to bring a monkey into your home.

Public Safety Concerns

Monkeys have the potential to pose a threat to public safety. Their unpredictable behavior and physical strength can lead to attacks on humans or other animals. This can result in legal liabilities and potential lawsuits, putting both the owner and the monkey at risk.

Ethical Considerations

There are ethical concerns surrounding the ownership of monkeys as pets. These intelligent creatures are meant to live in their natural habitats with their own kind. Keeping them as pets can deprive them of the social interactions and natural behaviors they need to thrive.

In Summary

Owning a monkey in California comes with a multitude of potential risks and dangers. From the lack of domestication and the fulfillment of their physical and emotional needs to legal restrictions, health risks, financial burden, public safety concerns, and ethical considerations, there are many factors to consider before bringing a monkey into your home. It is important to prioritize the well-being of these animals and respect their natural habitats by leaving them in the wild where they belong.

Alternatives to Owning a Monkey as a Pet in California

While owning a monkey may seem appealing to some individuals, it is important to note that in California, owning certain types of monkeys as pets is illegal. California has strict laws and regulations regarding exotic pet ownership to protect both the animals and the public. However, if you are interested in having a unique and exotic companion, there are alternative options available that are legal and more suitable for California residents.

1. Exotic Bird Ownership

Exotic birds are a popular choice for individuals seeking a unique pet. These birds are colorful, intelligent, and can provide companionship similar to that of a monkey. Popular pet bird species include parrots, cockatoos, macaws, and lovebirds. Owning an exotic bird requires proper care, attention, and interaction to ensure their well-being.

Before bringing an exotic bird into your home, it is important to research the specific needs of the species you are interested in. Understanding their dietary requirements, cage size, and socialization needs will help you provide a suitable environment for your new feathered friend.

2. Small Exotic Mammals

If you are looking for a smaller alternative to a monkey, small exotic mammals can be a great option. Animals such as hedgehogs, sugar gliders, and chinchillas can provide unique companionship without the legal restrictions of owning a monkey in California.

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Hedgehogs are known for their adorable appearance and low-maintenance care. They require a suitable enclosure, a proper diet, and regular interaction to thrive. Sugar gliders, on the other hand, are small marsupials that have become popular due to their social nature and ability to bond with their owners. Chinchillas are another option and are known for their soft fur and playful personalities.

3. Reptile Ownership

For individuals who are interested in a more low-maintenance pet, reptiles can be a fascinating alternative. Reptiles such as bearded dragons, leopard geckos, and corn snakes make great pets and are legal to own in California.

Reptiles require specific environmental conditions, including temperature, humidity, and lighting. It is important to thoroughly research the needs of the species you choose to ensure you can provide a suitable habitat. Regular veterinary check-ups and a proper diet are also essential for their health and well-being.

4. Domesticated Cats and Dogs

While cats and dogs may not be as exotic as monkeys or reptiles, they provide companionship, loyalty, and love. Domesticated cats and dogs are legal in California and are common choices for individuals seeking a pet.

Before bringing a cat or dog into your home, consider factors such as size, breed, activity level, and grooming requirements. It is important to provide a suitable living environment, regular exercise, proper nutrition, and veterinary care for your furry companion.

5. Volunteer at Local Animal Shelters and Rescues

If you are passionate about animals but are unable to have a pet of your own, consider volunteering at local animal shelters or rescues. These organizations are always in need of dedicated individuals to help care for and socialize their animals. This allows you to contribute to the well-being of animals without the responsibility of ownership.

By volunteering, you can interact with various animals, including monkeys, and make a positive impact on their lives. It provides an opportunity to satisfy your love for animals while adhering to the regulations and laws of pet ownership in California.


Owning a monkey as a pet in California is illegal due to strict laws and regulations. However, there are several alternative options available for individuals seeking a unique and exotic companion. Exotic bird ownership, small exotic mammals, reptile ownership, and domesticated cats and dogs are all legal alternatives in California. Additionally, volunteering at local animal shelters and rescues allows you to interact with and care for animals without the responsibility of ownership. Choose an alternative that suits your lifestyle and preferences, ensuring the well-being and happiness of both you and your chosen pet.

Expert Advice and Resources for Monkey Ownership in California

Are you considering owning a monkey as a pet in California? Before diving into the world of monkey ownership, it’s important to educate yourself about the legalities and responsibilities involved. California has strict regulations and permits for owning exotic animals like monkeys, and it’s crucial to ensure you’re fully prepared to provide the necessary care and environment for your new primate companion.

1. Research and Find a Reputable Exotic Animal Veterinarian

Before bringing a monkey into your home, it’s essential to find a reputable exotic animal veterinarian with experience in primate care. Monkeys have specific health needs, and having a vet who understands their unique requirements is crucial for their well-being. They will be able to provide vaccinations, routine check-ups, and emergency care if needed. Research and reach out to local exotic animal clinics or animal hospitals to find the right veterinarian for your monkey.

2. Understand the Legal Requirements

California has strict regulations and permits for owning exotic animals, including monkeys. It’s imperative to familiarize yourself with the legal requirements to avoid any legal issues or penalties. Contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn about the necessary permits, licenses, and regulations for monkey ownership. Ensure you comply with all legal requirements to provide a safe and legal environment for your monkey.

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3. Join Local Exotic Animal Owner Communities

Connecting with experienced exotic animal owners in your community can be immensely valuable. They can provide firsthand insights, advice, and resources specific to monkey ownership in California. Join online forums, social media groups, or attend local exotic animal owner meetups to connect with knowledgeable individuals who can guide you through the process. Sharing experiences and learning from others can help you navigate the challenges of owning a monkey in California.

4. Establish a Suitable Living Environment

Monkeys require a spacious and enriching living environment that mimics their natural habitat. Ensure you have the appropriate space, resources, and adequate facilities to accommodate your monkey’s needs. It’s essential to provide ample opportunities for physical activity, mental stimulation, and social interaction. Research and consult with experts or primate sanctuaries to create a safe and enriching living space for your monkey.

5. Prepare Financially for Monkey Ownership

Along with the initial cost of acquiring a monkey, there are ongoing expenses associated with their care. From quality primate-specific diet to veterinary costs, toys, and environmental enrichment, owning a monkey can be financially demanding. It’s crucial to have a realistic budget and be prepared for these expenses to ensure your monkey’s well-being. Consult with experienced monkey owners or primate sanctuaries to get an estimate of the financial commitment involved in monkey ownership.

6. Seek Professional Training and Socialization

Proper training and socialization are vital for the well-being of your monkey and the safety of those around them. Seek professional trainers or behaviorists specialized in primate behavior to help you with training techniques, socialization strategies, and positive reinforcement methods. Training and socializing your monkey from an early age will enable them to develop appropriate behaviors and ensure a harmonious bond between you and your primate companion.

7. Stay Up-to-Date with Changing Regulations

Regulations regarding monkey ownership in California may change over time. It’s essential to stay informed about any updates or amendments to these regulations to remain compliant. Regularly check the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website or contact them directly to ensure you are up-to-date with the latest requirements and guidelines.


Owning a monkey in California requires careful consideration, research, and compliance with legal regulations. Seek expert advice from reputable exotic animal veterinarians, join local exotic animal owner communities, and establish a suitable living environment for your primate companion. Prepare financially for the ongoing expenses and invest in professional training and socialization to ensure a positive and safe experience for both you and your monkey. Stay informed about changing regulations to remain compliant and provide the best care for your beloved pet.


Is it legal to own a monkey in California?

No, it is not legal to own a monkey as a pet in California. Monkeys are considered exotic animals, and California has strict laws prohibiting the ownership of exotic pets, including monkeys.


In conclusion, owning a monkey in California is not legal without obtaining the necessary permits and licenses. The state has strict regulations in place to ensure the welfare of both the monkeys and the public. It is crucial to remember that monkeys are not domesticated animals and can pose safety risks. Additionally, keeping a monkey as a pet requires significant time, resources, and expertise. While it may be tempting to have a monkey as a companion, it is important to respect the laws and consider other suitable and legal alternatives for pet ownership.