5 Popular Animals That Are Illegal as Pets in Illinois

Some states ban most exotic animals as pets. For example, three states, New York City, Omaha, Nebraska, and Washington, D.C., ban hedgehogs, a popular pet commonly sold in pet stores in most states. Illinois is more lenient than some states as it doesn’t outright ban most exotic animals.

Illinois law generally bans animals as pets that are one of the following: 

  • Injurious, which means they pose a threat to indigenous wildlife or the habitat
  • Endangered or threatened
  • Exotic birds and mammals, which may be banned, limited, or restricted
  • Poisonous reptiles
  • Life-threatening reptiles over six feet
  • Dangerous animals
  • Primates

Here are five popular animals that you cannot legally keep as a pet in Illinois. 


Illinois law classifies wolves as dangerous animals. It’s illegal to keep a wolf as a pet, but more importantly, wolf-dog hybrids are also illegal. The Illinois Dangerous Animals Act does not specifically list hybrids of dangerous animals, but the Animal Welfare Act bans the sale of animals for which ownership would violate the Dangerous Animals Act. It states hybrids of wolves are included. 

Wolf-dog hybrids are becoming more popular across the country despite the danger these animals pose. They still retain many aspects of their wild wolf lineage, and their behavior can be unpredictable. 

A study published in 2000 found wolf-dog hybrids were one of the most likely breeds to be involved in fatal dog bites after pit bull-type breeds, rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Malamutes. 


Ocelots are small, cute felines sometimes kept as pets around the world. Artist Salvador Dalí famously had a pet ocelot named Babou. While they may seem like ideal pets for cat lovers and manageable at 15 to 35 pounds, they are wild animals and do not do well in captivity. 

Ocelots are very active and destructive. Domestic cats themselves are a recognized threat to biodiversity and have contributed to the extinction of more than 60 species of reptiles, mammals, and birds. Ocelots have an even greater capacity for destruction if they’re allowed outside. 

Illinois prohibits owning ocelots as pets under the Dangerous Animals Act. 


Servals are slightly larger than ocelots and, like their Central and South American counterparts, are sometimes kept as pets. These small wild cats are frequently abandoned by would-be owners when it becomes obvious that they do not make good pets. 

Servals are more aloof than domestic cats; they do not enjoy being pet or cuddled. They have strong predatory instincts and need a specialized diet with a large, secure enclosure. If they escape, servals can wreak havoc on the environment with a 50% kill rate that’s five times higher than a domestic cat. 

Illinois lists servals as prohibited dangerous animals. You may see hybrids called “savannah cats” advertised for sale, but these are also banned, like wolf-dog hybrids. 

Capuchin Monkeys

The Illinois Dangerous Animals Act prohibits owning not only dangerous animals like wolves, wild cats, and bears but also primates. Capuchin monkeys are included in this category. 

The dangers of a pet chimpanzee should be clear, with many high-profile examples of people disfigured or killed by chimpanzees treated like family members. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly assume the small, cute capuchins are safe. The iconic “organ grinder” monkeys weigh just five to 12 pounds, yet they can be incredibly dangerous

Capuchins are intelligent and require substantial stimulation or they can become aggressive and destructive. They can’t be house-trained, and their agility, dexterity, and intelligence mean they can tear your home apart quickly. The animals often become aggressive and unpredictable once they reach sexual maturity around five years, yet they can live up to 45 years in captivity. 

Even small primates like capuchin monkeys can cause serious injuries. There have been cases of capuchins ripping off ears and amputating fingers with a bite of their sharp canines. They can also transmit diseases like herpes B virus, rabies, and hepatitis. 

Illinois law does have a grandfather clause allowing people who legally owned primates before 2011 to continue owning the animal as long as it was registered with local animal control before April 2011. 

Illinois also allows people with permanent disabilities that cause severe mobility impairment to possess a capuchin monkey to assist with daily tasks. However, it must be obtained from and trained at a licensed nonprofit and registered with animal control. 

Gila Monsters

The Gila monster is a venomous lizard native to the Southwestern U.S. and Sonora, Mexico. It’s one of just a few venomous lizards with a notoriously painful bite. While Gila monster bites are rarely fatal, people have been known to die. In 2024, a Colorado man died after he was bitten by his pet Gila monster

In some states, Gila monsters are legal to own and can be found for sale at reptile shows. In Illinois, possession of Gila monsters and other venomous reptiles is banned under the Herptiles-Herps Act. A permit is only allowed for bona fide educational purposes. 

An Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Can Help You

Some people have the experience and skill necessary to safely own exotic animals, but they are an exception. There’s a reason many popular exotic and dangerous animals are banned as pets in Illinois. Pets like capuchin monkeys and wolf-dog hybrids don’t just risk injury to their owners. It’s often innocent passers-by, neighbors, and guests who end up hurt. 

Our Chicago dog bite lawyers hold pet owners accountable when their animal causes someone else harm. The Illinois Animal Control Act holds pet owners strictly liable for injuries and bites. Most cases involve dog bites, but this law has been used in cases involving capuchin monkeys and other exotic animals. 

Have you been hurt by someone else’s pet? Contact Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Contact the Chicago Personal Injury Law Firm of Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys for Help Today

For more information, please contact the experienced Chicago personal injury lawyers at Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys today. We offer free consultations.

We proudly serve Cook County, Will County, Kendall County, and its surrounding areas:

Zayed Law Offices Personal Injury Attorneys – Chicago Office
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