Can You Have a Pet Squirrel in Pennsylvania? Is It Legal?

can you have a pet squirrel in pennsylvania

Can you have a pet squirrel in Pennsylvania? Unfortunately for nature lovers and those who adore small rodents, the short answer is no. Let’s take a deeper look into Pennsylvania law and find out why.

Can You Own A Squirrel In Pennsylvania?

According to state law, no game animals or furbearers are allowed to be kept as pets. In other words, animals that you hunt, or animals that are valued for their pelts are not allowed to be domesticated. This includes squirrels.

Pet squirrels are becoming more and more popular, and you need to know what it’s really like to own one.

That said, not every state allows their citizens to keep wild animals as pets. We’ll take a closer look at the pet squirrel laws in Pennsylvania.

Why Can’t I Own A Squirrel In Pennsylvania?

While we all remember old TV shows where the kid finds a wounded squirrel in the woods and nurses it back to health, or maybe you did that yourself long ago, you cannot keep the animal, no matter how badly you might want to. 

One cannot take an animal from the wild and make it a pet. Wild animals have wild instincts, and they do not make good pets. Doing so violates section 2307(a) of the Game and Wildlife Code, which is entitled “Unlawful taking or possession of game or wildlife”

There are other reasons why you cannot own a squirrel as a pet.

  • Disease. It is possible the squirrel has rabies or some other disease that could infect healthy animals such as dogs or cats or even you if you’re not careful.
  • Fleas. These nasty little buggers are on just about every creature with fur. Don’t bring them into the house.
  • It’s wild. Squirrels might be cute, but they’re wild animals at heart, and they might be vicious or bite little children or other animals. Respect nature and leave them in their natural habitat.
  • Many states won’t allow exotic pets due to environmental concerns. 

It is Against the Law to Own Wildlife of Any Kind

The state of Pennsylvania has made it a law that one cannot go into the wild and take an animal from its habitat with the intention of making it a pet. Anyone who is caught can face some legal issues. 

What Happens If You’re Caught With A Squirrel In Pennsylvania?

If someone is caught doing so, the fine is upwards of $1500. Anyone caught with a wild animal, such as a squirrel, cannot keep them.

In fact, this law is so strict that this animal would need to be put down, as it can never be re-released into the wild. Spreading disease to other creatures is just too great.

When seen in that light, taking a squirrel from the wild in order to keep it as a pet is not mercy toward the animal, but rather cruel as the animal can never return and will be euthanized if you’re caught with it.

You will be held responsible for any damage caused by your pet. If a squirrel bites or scratches someone while in your car, they will hold you liable for:

  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Medical expenses
  • Therapy
  • Loss of income
  • Physical pain and suffering

Can You Buy A Squirrel Out of State?

If you’ve purchased or acquired a squirrel while living in a state where it is legal, and move to Pennsylvania, it is legal. There was a case in 2004 which revolved around Nutkin the Squirrel. Nutkin was acquired in South Carolina, where it is legal to own a pet squirrel.

The family moved to Pennsylvania, where it is illegal to own wild animals. Pennsylvania’s Fish and Game became aware of Nutkin the pet squirrel from South Carolina. One of the Wildlife Officers tried to remove Nutkin to release him back into the wild.

At the end, the family was allowed to keep Nutkin. It was determined his chance of survival was minimal because they had raised him from a young age, and he was comfortable around humans. (source)

What If You Find An Orphaned Squirrel?

Many homeowners will find an orphaned squirrel in their backyard, especially during the spring or early summer. It’s human nature to want to help, but the best thing to do when you find an injured or orphaned wild animal is to leave it alone.  

Contact your state Fish and Wildlife Department to let them know where you found the squirrel. Many states have licensed rehabilitators that are trained to care for young wildlife until they are ready to return to the wild. 

Does Pennsylvania Offer Wildlife Permits?

Pennsylvania requires people to get a permit for owning wildlife. Failure to do so, is violation of the law. The downside is acquiring a license is not a straightforward task. 

Many people on forums have said that it’s virtually impossible to get a license. If you’ve thought about becoming a rehabbing wildlife, then you must apply with the Pennsylvania Game Commission website

Plenty of Other Animals Will Do

There is no reason to own a squirrel in Pennsylvania. You cannot buy one at the pet store, and it is illegal to take one from the wild. Don’t break the law and saddle the poor animal with a death sentence, get a dog or a cat instead. 

Better yet, try other rodents that can be domesticated, such as mice, rats, guinea pigs, or ferrets. If you find an injured squirrel in the wild, call animal control and don’t try to nurse it back to health. It will only end up being put to sleep.


If you live in Pennsylvania, it is illegal to own a pet squirrel. You could be subject to legal fines, which can get quite expensive.

That being said, if you’ve acquired a squirrel in a state where it is legal, then you need to contact an attorney to find out what your rights are as the Appellant family was able to keep Nutkin their pet squirrel. 

In my opinion, it’s not worth having a pet squirrel if you live in Pennsylvania. If you decide to have one, make sure you get an excellent lawyer, because you may eventually need one.

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