If you are a Californian and are looking to get an Ambystoma, one of the questions you need to ask yourself is, “Are axolotls illegal in California?”
Exotic pet lovers all over the world are familiar with the axolotls, the fully aquatic salamanders, with tiny eyes and a perpetually smiling mouth.
In fact, these amphibians resemble fish more than they do salamanders and have their own set of frilly gills.
Are Axolotls Illegal In California?
Pet lovers will be disappointed to know that axolotls are illegal in California. There are various reasons for that including this amphibian is an endangered species and is a non-friendly animal that can cause harm to other animals.
In this guide, we can help you understand whether axolotls are illegal in California and other parts of the United States.
We will also help you understand why it is illegal, what will happen if you are caught with an axolotl, and what the penalty for raising an axolotl in California is.
As an animal lover myself, I was saddened to discover that California has banned keeping these animals as pets.
However, according to various sources that conserve the local ecosystem, it is also the right thing to do.
Can I Keep an Axolotl in California?
It is illegal to own axolotls, not just in California, but a few other US states as well including Virginia, New Jersey, and Maine.
These animals are also illegal to own in certain provinces of Canada. In Mexico, it is legal to own an axolotl but owners are not allowed to import them from one state to another.
In California, special laws have been placed keeping in mind the best interests of the local ecosystem, the public’s health and safety, as well as the axolotl themselves, which are considered endangered now.
The ban in California does not stop at axolotls.
It stands for other Ambystoma species as well, including mole salamanders, tiger salamanders, spotted salamanders, and more.
So legally, you cannot keep an axolotl as a pet in California.
However, if you still want it for any reason, you need to get a written permit from the authorities in California which will request an assurance that you will keep the amphibians in a humane way.
They also need to be contained and cannot be allowed to interact with the local wildlife.
The authorities will also let you know how long you can keep the axolotl in the state.
Your axolotl will also need to be taken in for vet exams regularly or checked by an inspection team.
However, this permit is not granted to just anyone. Plus, they are very expensive these days.
Hence, for the most part, axolotls are not the best pets to keep in California.
If you break any of the laws or bring in the pet without the proper permit, you will have committed a crime and you will be penalized accordingly. You cannot plead ignorance of the law as a defense, either.
It may be possible that some local fishermen and game suppliers are not aware of these laws and may be selling axolotls.
However, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is clear on the fact that axolotls are not suitable pets for anyone living in California.
Why are Axolotls Illegal in California?
Owning, selling, or keeping axolotls in California is completely illegal.
These states have laws that have been designed to protect the native wildlife, agriculture, and general public health and safety, and axolotls have been found to not be in their best interests.
I have added some of the main reasons why these amphibians are not legal in California:
Although their cute smiles seem to say otherwise, axolotls are not the friendliest of animals and do not like to interact or socialize with other animals, whether it is fish, small reptiles, or even other axolotls.
When in close contact with other animals, axolotls can attack and harm them.
This is the reason why these animals are illegal in California, need to stay contained (if you have a permit for them), and cannot absolutely be placed in open waters.
Another very important reason why axolotls are outlawed in California is that they have the potential of posing large environmental threats if they are released into the wild, whether by accident or purposefully.
If axolotls are released into the wild, they can easily outcompete other struggling native salamander species like the California tiger salamander, which can lead to their extinction.
In addition, they also have the potential of becoming an invasive species which can lead to unforeseen harm to the local ecosystem of California.
One of the biggest reasons for the ban on axolotls in California is that these animals are in grave danger and their numbers are dwindling day by day.
They are now considered to be an endangered species at high risk of extinction.
This is the reason why they have been banned from interbreeding with other salamander species.
One of the reasons for the extinction is the increased use of pesticides in soil, which leaches into the water, poisoning and destroying the animal’s natural habitat.
Another reason is that axolotls have been bred in captivity for several decades until they no longer have the same genetic and behavioral aspects as wild axolotls.
These axolotls are interbred with tiger salamanders, are genetically modified, and have been bred generation after generation without exposing them to natural selective forces, making them a completely different species from that found in the wild.
This is also the reason why if these captive axolotls were to be released into their native habitat, they will not be enough to stop the extinction of the wild axolotls.
What Will Happen If You Bring an Axolotl in California Illegally?
If you have brought an axolotl or any other animal into a state where it is banned, you are in a very precarious position.
If you are caught with an axolotl in your possession, it will be a violation of the state law and you will be charged with a crime.
If you were unaware of the ban in California and only later became aware of it, I recommend that you do the following things as soon as possible.
Inform the Californian Authorities
The smartest and most socially and environmentally responsible thing for you to do is to contact your local wildlife authorities and let them know you are keeping an axolotl.
The authorities will guide you on the next steps you should take and how to keep your axolotl.
Also be prepared for the authorities to come and take away your axolotl.
It can be heartbreaking to hand over your beloved pet to someone else, but know that from then on, your little salamander will be under the protection of the state.
Stop Breeding Them
If you have more than one axolotls and have been breeding them, you need to stop it. Immediately separate the male axolotl from the females.
In some cases, you may also want to euthanize any eggs that your axolotls produced.
However, if you do not feel that you cannot do this, the local authorities will do this on your behalf.
The sooner you euthanize the eggs, the better.
Terminating the eggs before they can develop a nervous system will ensure that the little salamanders do not feel any pain.
Don’t Distribute the Eggs
If you are in possession of any axolotl eggs, you should absolutely not distribute them to other people in California. If you do this, you will also be putting those individuals in violation of the law.
In addition, it will be very difficult for the authorities to trace the axolotls when the eggs hatch and develop into adults.
What is the Penalty for Owning Axolotls in California?
When it comes to exotic pets, California has very tough laws.
If someone is caught with an axolotl as a pet, they will be punished under the California Fish and Game code.
The penalty may include a cash fine of anywhere between $500 to $10,000, with the additional cost of having the animal removed, contained, and cared for.
In some severe cases, it can lead to imprisonment of up to six months.