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Are Monitor Lizards Legal in Canada?

Depending on where you are located, you may or may not be able to keep a Monitor lizard as a pet in Canada.

British Columbia allows the possession of most Monitor lizards which are commonly found in the pet trade, with some exceptions.

Some of the most popular pet Monitor lizards, such as Ackie Monitors (Varanus acanthurus), Savannah Monitors (Varanus exanthematicus), and Timor Monitors (Varanus timorensis) are generally allowed.

Smaller species of Monitor lizards are allowed in British Columbia, but not in Toronto
Smaller species of Monitor lizards are allowed in British Columbia.

This is however not the case for Ontario, and the regulations can vary from city to city.

For example, Toronto has stricter regulations that prevent all species of Monitor lizards to be kept as pet.

If you are planning to adopt a pet Monitor, make sure to check your local regulations.

Below is a list of Monitor lizard species that are prohibited to keep in Canada (including BC):

  • Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)
  • Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus)
  • Perentie Monitor (Varanus giganteus)
  • Variegated Monitor (Varanus varius)
  • Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
  • Bengal Monitor (Varanus bengalensis)
  • Crocodile Monitor (Varanus salvadori)

All these species of Monitor lizards are illegal to own, breed and transport anywhere in Canada.

If a species is not listed above, it may be allowed, but a permit may be required depending on its size and your specific area of residence.

  • Ackie Monitor (Varanus acanthurus)
  • Savannah Monitor (Varanus exanthematicus)
  • Asian Water Monitor (Varanus salvator)
  • Pygmy Mulga Monitor (Varanus gilleni)
  • Timor Monitor (Varanus timorensis)
  • Any other Varanidae not listed as a prohibited species

Restricted species of monitor lizards can be owned, bred and transported without a permit if they are smaller than two metres (this is usually the case for smaller species like Ackie monitors).

A permit is required if the lizard reaches a length of over two metres as an adult.

All species of Monitor lizards, regardless of size, cannot be released in the wild under any circumstances.

Again, regulations vary between regions and sometimes even cities.

Source: List of Controlled Alien Species in British Columbia (Updated December 2012)

Unfortunately, it is not possible to legally own a Monitor lizard in Toronto.

This is in accordance to the TORONTO MUNICIPAL CODE CHAPTER 349, ANIMALS which states that the following animals are prohibited:


Crocodylia (such as alligators, crocodiles, gavials)
All snakes which reach an adult length larger than 3 metres
All lizards which reach an adult length larger than 2 metres
All venomous and poisonous animals


Sadly, all Monitor lizards fall into one or both of the categories highlighted above.

Even though most Monitors that are kept as pets do not reach 2 metres in length as adults, all species are venomous and therefore forbidden in Toronto.

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