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Can You Have a Pet Owl in the US? Know the Rules and Regulations

Can You Have a Pet Owl

It might be tempting to want a unique and exotic pet, such as an owl. But it’s unlike other birds that you can just buy it from a pet shop or can hunt it to hold in a cage. There are some regulations for petting birds of prey like an owl in the US. 

So, can you have a pet owl in the US? Yes, you can but that depends on the state you live in. In general, it is prohibited to own an owl as a pet without a license. However, some 15 states like Alabama, Louisiana, Minnesota, Arkansas, Delaware, etc. are among the states where it is legal to own owls as a pet. But you must provide them with legal justification.

This article will offer a comprehensive explanation of the rules and issues concerning pet owls in the United States.

Can You Have a Pet Owl in the US? Rules and Regulations

You can certainly own a cute owl as your pet. But you need to be at least an intermediate petter. And that is not only for the sake of your pet owl’ long survival but for your permission to get lawfully. 

Can You Have a Pet Owl in the US

We will now jump into knowing some more details about these rules and regulations by answering some questions.

Do you need a license to own an owl in the US?

Yes. In general, it is illegal to own an owl as a pet in the US without the proper licenses and permits. Owls, like all birds of prey, are protected under federal law by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act especially for the species like snowy owls. And which makes it illegal to possess, sell, or transport any species of the owl without the appropriate permits. 

Do you need a license to own an owl in the US

To obtain a permit to own an owl, you must be able to prove that you have the necessary experience and facilities to care for the owl. And that the owl will be used for a legitimate purpose, such as education or rehabilitation.

Where is it legal to own an owl in the US?

Before going into an in-depth discussion, let’s have a look at what is going on about petting an owl in some of the states in the US.

StateLegal to pet an Owl
New yorkNo
AlbamaYes (with permit)
IndianaYes (with permit)
OhioYes (with permit)
PennsylvaniaYes (with permit)
GeorgiaYes (with permit)
IllinoisYes (with permit)
NevadaYes (with permit)
MissouriYes (with permit)

The table shows it is not legal directly to own an owl as a pet in the most popular states in the US. The same thing goes for many other states too.

That means owl ownership laws vary by state in the US. In some states, it is completely illegal to own an owl, while in others, it is only legal to own an owl with the appropriate permits. 

Where is it legal to own an owl in the US

Some jurisdictions, like Texas and Nevada, have more liberal regulations regarding owl ownership. But the requisite licenses must still be obtained. It can sometimes depend on the type of owl.

However, in any case, it is important to consult with your state’s wildlife agency to learn about the exact rules and restrictions that apply to pet owl ownership in your region.

What owls are legal to own in the US?

In the US, it is generally legal to own certain types of owls with the appropriate permits. Big pet owls are allowed in the US with the necessary permit, which means they have to be mature owls. Nevertheless, the most common pet owls in the US are barn owls, great horned owls, and snowy owls. 

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Generally, it’s easier to obtain a permit for a barn owl, as they are not listed as a threatened or endangered species. The other two, on the other hand, are more difficult to obtain a permit for, as they are protected under federal law as threatened or endangered species.

What owls are legal to own in the US

Although the species are permitted, they are not domesticated owls. It is not possible as they are wild animals and cannot be trained to behave like a domesticated animal, such as a dog or cat. 

Owls have specific care and husbandry needs, including a diet of rodents and other small animals, and require a large enclosure. So, it is illegal in the United States to keep an owl as a pet without the proper license, and it is not advisable to try to domesticate an owl.

Likewise, it is also crucial to remember that owl ownership regulations differ by the state in the United States. And it is unlawful in most states to keep an owl without the proper authorization.

So, before considering ownership, it’s necessary to learn about the particular care and husbandry demands of each owl species because each species has different needs.

Can You Own an Owl in Texas and Nevada?

With the right licenses, one can possess an owl in Texas and Nevada. Thus, in order to obtain a permit to own an owl in these states, you must be able to prove that you have the necessary experience and facilities to care for the owl and that the owl will be used for a legitimate purpose. 

This includes education or rehabilitation. It is also important to check with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine the specific laws and regulations. The same goes for Nevada – pet owl ownership needs to be reviewed by higher state authorities.

How to Get an Owl Permit

An owl permit application might be a difficult and drawn-out procedure. The first step is figuring out which kind of permission you require according to how you want to utilize the owl. The three primary types of owl licenses are for breeding/propagation, rehabilitation, and education.

How to Get an Owl Permit

1. Educational Permit

An educational permit allows organizations, such as schools or nature centers, to own and exhibit owls for educational purposes. These permits are issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and are intended to allow the public to learn about owls and their role in the environment.

It’s also crucial to remember that receiving an educational permit does not ensure that you will be permitted to acquire an owl. That is because the licensing organization ultimately has the final say in the matter.

2. Rehabilitation Permit

In order to care for and release injured or orphaned owls back into the wild, people or groups need a rehabilitation permit. These licenses are given out by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They are meant to enable members of the public to aid wounded or abandoned owls and support conservation efforts.

How to Get an Owl Permit

3. Breeding Permit

The ownership and breeding of owls for research or conservation reasons is permitted for both individuals and organizations with a specially bred permit. This is also issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The breeding permit is given to enable the general people to participate in conservation initiatives and academic research. You must complete an application. 

Then present documents to show that you have the required training and facilities to care for the owl after determining the type of permit you require. Proof of schooling or training, as well as evidence of the enclosure or facility where the owl will be housed, may be required.

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How to Pet an Owl?

In terms of nature, a domesticated owl is not a good concept. Owls are wild animals that must be treated with care and respect. Petting an owl is not suggested since they may become anxious or irritated if handled badly. Owls also have strong talons and beaks that may cause injury if they feel threatened.

How to Pet an Owl

However, two things you need to be aware of when petting an owl. One is approaching another thing is taking caution. 

1. Approaching an Owl

If you come into touch with an owl, approach them gently and cautiously. Avoid making loud noises or quick movements since they may surprise the owl and disturb it. Approach the owl from the front and allow it plenty of room if it is in a cage or enclosure.

2. Take caution

If you are permitted to handle the owl, do it with caution. Support their body weight with two hands, and be wary of their sharp talons and beaks. Avoid caressing an owl’s head or face since it may make it feel threatened. Instead, touch their back or wings softly.

It is necessary to keep in mind that owls are wild animals that should be treated with care. Although it may be appealing to pet an owl, it is important to proceed with caution and with the owl’s well-being in mind. 

If you are unfamiliar with owls, it is advisable to view them from a safe distance and leave the handling to qualified specialists.

Are owls good pets?

Owls are not suitable pets for most people. As wild animals, they have specific care and husbandry needs that can be difficult for the average person to meet. 

For example, Nig pet owls need a proper diet and regular maintenance. As they are wild animals, it is natural for them to take care of themself. But if they are petted, they need constant medical care.

Are owls good pets

Moreover, Because owls are nocturnal, they may be active at night, disrupting your sleep. Eventually, owls are protected under federal law and it is illegal to own one as a pet without the appropriate permits.

So overall, it is probably a tough decision to make whether you own an owl despite having so many restrictions. If you’re a passionate petter, a cute owl might be your dream to own.


Do you still have some questions about having an owl as a pet? Have a look at this section. 

Q: Do humans and owls can be friends?

Yes. A respectful relationship might happen between an owl and a human. But as it is a wild animal and it has some wild instincts, it is recommended not to stay too close to an owl.

Q: What if I want to pet an owl but don’t have authorization from the state?

It is completely illegal. Even if you have a good grip on it, legal action may be brought against you.

Q: Do I need to make them a wild environment?

If you can, it will be great. A rural firm or a field with so many big trees might be a good environment for them.


So, can you have a pet owl in US? Petting an owl is not permitted in the US except for some special considerations. Many US states, including Texas, have rules and regulations if someone wants an owl as a pet. Newyork and California have completely prohibited petting owls.

However, it is generally said owls are not so good choice as a pet. Although you can have one if you have any sort of permission, it is not recommended. Nevertheless, if you pet an owl, you need to be careful about approaching them and don’t forget to take necessary precautions as well.


Peter Kaestner

Hi there, my name is Peter Kaestner and I am the owner of As a avid bird watcher and enthusiast with a passion for ornithology, I want to share my knowledge and experience with other bird lovers through this blog. As someone who regularly participates in bird-related forums and groups online, I am dedicated to helping others learn more about these amazing creatures. However, it's important to note that while I am happy to share my expertise and advice, it is always crucial to consult with an avian veterinarian before making any decisions that could potentially impact your bird's health or well-being. Your bird's health and happiness should always be your top priority, and consulting with a professional is the best way to ensure that you are making informed decisions on their behalf. I hope that through my blog, I can help make a positive difference in the lives of birds and the people who care for them. Whether you are an experienced bird owner or just starting out, I encourage you to use this resource as a way to learn more about these fascinating animals and how to provide them with the best possible care.View Author posts