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Why it is Illegal to Keep Axolotls in California

In the state of California, the ownership, sale, and possession of axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) is illegal.

This law is in place to protect local ecosystems, including wildlife and agriculture, from the potential disruption caused by the introduction of non-native species.

Some exotic pets, such as axolotls, can pose a risk to public health and safety, either through the transmission of zoonotic diseases or due to their physical characteristics.

The introduction of non-native species can disrupt local ecosystems and harm native wildlife.

Non-native species can compete with native species for resources, alter habitats, and introduce diseases, leading to a decline in biodiversity.

Unfortunately, species introduced in the US through the pet trade often become invasive, as it’s the case for Tegu lizards that have become invasive in Florida and Georgia. This is why regulations are necessary to control the trade of exotic pets.

In addition to this, axolotls are considered a critically endangered species, and this law contributes to global conservation efforts.

Their natural habitat, the Xochimilco lake complex near Mexico City, has been severely degraded due to urbanization and pollution.

Getting a permit

The only exception to this law is if you own a permit, but these are generally hard to come by and expensive.

There are many stipulations required to obtain a permit, such as length of ownership, the need to keep them humanely, contained, and supervised via inspections and/or a vet’s signature.

These stringent requirements ensure that only those who are truly committed to the welfare of the axolotl and understand the responsibilities involved in their care are granted a permit.

It is illegal to buy, sell or keep axolotls in California
It is illegal to buy, sell or keep axolotls in the state of California.

What is the penalty for owning an Axolotl in California?

If you are found in possession of an axolotl in California, you could be subject to criminal prosecution under the California Fish and Game code.

This is because axolotls are considered illegal to own, sell, or keep without a permit.

The law is designed to protect not only the axolotls, which are an endangered species, but also the local ecosystems, public health, and safety, which means multiple criminal charges could occur.

The penalties for this offense can vary, but they typically start with a cash penalty. This penalty can be as low as $500 for minor offenses. In more serious cases, the fine can rise to as much as $10,000.

In addition to the financial penalties, there may also be criminal consequences. In some cases, the offender may be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 6 months, depending on the severity of the offense and the circumstances surrounding it.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the importation, transportation, and possession of axolotls is a misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 6 months of jail time.

All Ambystoma (including the Ambystoma mexicanum or axolotl) are considered restricted species in California.

Note that claiming ignorance of these local laws is not considered a valid legal defense.

This means that even if you were unaware that it was illegal to own an axolotl in California, you could still be prosecuted.

This applies even if you were able to purchase an axolotl in California or bring one into the state from elsewhere.

Where Can You Buy An Axolotl?

If you own a permit or live in a state where purchasing axolotls is allowed, then you can legally purchase them online.

We have axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) available for sale through our affiliate partner

Axolotl for Sale

(Ambystoma mexicanum)

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