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Posted at 03:12 PM ET, 10/24/2011

No, you can’t keep that lion in D.C.

Last week, an Ohio man who owned an exotic animal preserve freed 56 wild animals, including lions, tigers and wolves, before killing himself. Citing the imminent danger to the community, police shot and killed 49 of the animals.

The incident got us to thinking — what exactly are the rules in the District when it comes to owning non-standard pets? Would a resident be able to keep a lion, tiger, coyote or flamingo in their backyard?

The simple answer is no, according to D.C. law:

[N]o person shall import into the District, possess, display, offer for sale, trade, barter, exchange, or adoption, or give as a household pet any living member of the animal kingdom including those born or raised in captivity, except the following: domestic dogs (excluding hybrids with wolves, coyotes, or jackals), domestic cats (excluding hybrids with ocelots or margays), domesticated rodents and rabbits, captive-bred species of common cage birds, nonpoisonous snakes, fish, and turtles, traditionally kept in the home for pleasure rather than for commercial purposes, and racing pigeons (when kept in compliance with permit requirements).

There are a few exceptions, of course. Zoos, permitted circuses and federally licensed animal exhibitors, for one. Wildlife rehabilitators and vets can also have exotic animals on hand, but only “for treatment or pending appropriate disposition.” Finally, the law grandfathers in anyone who owned “domestic dog hybrids of wolves, coyotes, or jackals” prior to March 17, 1993.

Obviously, that these laws are on the books doesn’t mean that exotic animals haven’t been found in the District in the past. According to Scott Giacoppo, vice president of the Washington Humane Society, everything from alligators to poisonous snakes to primates have been found within city limits.

[Continue reading Martin Austermuhle’s post at]

Martin Austermuhle blogs at DCist. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  03:12 PM ET, 10/24/2011

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