18 Deadly Animals You’re Allowed to Keep as Pets

shallow focus photo of gray alligator
Photo by Balaji Malliswamy on Unsplash

When people feel the call of the wild, they often engage in exciting activities like climbing mountains or surfing big waves. Still, there’s a big difference between enjoying nature and keeping wild animals as pets. While many people prefer cuddly companions, some choose exotic and dangerous pets. Here are 18 deadly animals you’re allowed to keep as pets.

Brazilian Wandering Spiders

“brazilian-wandering-spider” by decapod73 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Brazilian wandering spider, also known as armed or banana spiders, is from the Phoneutria genus, which means “murderess” in Greek. And they’ve earned that name—they’re one of the most poisonous spiders in the world. Their bite carries neurotoxic venom, which can be fatal, though antivenom usually saves lives. In some parts of the US, you can have them legally if you get a special permit for arachnids.


“See You Later, Alligator . . .” by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In a few states, you can have an alligator if you get the right permit and set up the right way. They need a big area with water and eat meat, which can be hard for many folks to handle. National Geographic says most people who have gators as pets aren’t ready for how big they can get—up to 14 feet long and live for 80 years!


black and gray crab on brown sand
Photo by Leon Pauleikhoff on Unsplash

Even though they’re tiny, keeping scorpions as pets can be very risky if you don’t take care of them properly. Owners need to give them a warm, safe tank with enough stuff to dig and hide in. Try not to touch them too much to avoid getting stung. The emperor scorpion is one of many types that are okay to keep as pets—like the dictator, Asian forest, and desert hairy scorpion.

Venomous Snakes

“Venomous snake” by MarkosLoizou is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Owning venomous snakes as pets in certain parts of the US is allowed, but it comes with rules. Favorites like Gaboon vipers and rattlesnakes are popular picks for their striking looks. Setting up a comfy and secure tank is a must. According to Pet Helpful, “You can add dry leaves, tree bark, and brown grass to their enclosure for a touch of nature.”

Komodo Dragons

“The Komodo Dragon” by Adhi Rachdian is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Komodo dragons—the giants of the lizard world—might seem fascinating, but they’re actually quite risky as pets. Their massive size, strength, and bacteria-packed saliva make them a handful to handle. They need a spacious and carefully controlled environment that mimics their natural habitat to keep them happy. Plus, they have big appetites and crave a protein-rich diet, mainly meat.

Cone Snails

“Conus gloriamaris (glory-of-the-seas cone snail) 5” by James St. John is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cone snails have pretty shells, but they can be very dangerous to handle because of their venom. They need a saltwater tank that’s checked often to keep them well. All cone snails are poisonous—and some can be deadly, but the ones in North America won’t kill people. Scientists are looking at cone snail venom because it might help with pain and cure illnesses.


brown and black spider on green leaf
Photo by Juan Pablo Mascanfroni on Unsplash

Mexican Redknee and Goliath Birdeaters are famous pet tarantulas because they’re big and look very impressive. They require a tank where humidity and temperature are carefully controlled. Experts suggest not handling them much, and they don’t really form bonds with their owners. But if you’re looking for a pet to hold often, tarantulas might not be the best option—they can bite and their venom is not harmless.

Big Cats

brown and black cat in close up photography
Photo by Jeff Meigs on Unsplash

Keeping big cats as pets at home isn’t recommended, but in some places—you can do it with a special permit. These animals are tough to care for because they’re strong and have hunting instincts. Owners have to make sure they eat the right foods and live in places that are like their natural habitats. According to recent reports, folks who own big cats all over the US will have to register them with the government.


two gray wolves
Photo by Yannick Menard on Unsplash

In some places, it’s allowed to own wolves, but there are rules because they can be unpredictable and sometimes aggressive. They need lots of safe room to run around. In the US, whether you can have a wolf depends on the state. Some states let you have ones that are mostly wolf, while others have different rules—like no more than 98%, 75%, 25%, or not allowing first-generation crosses.


“young male spotted hyena close” by patries71 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Though uncommon, you can legally have hyenas in some countries with the right permits and safe cages. They need a diet rich in proteins and fats and are known for being aggressive. While they don’t need the same social interaction as chimps, they’re still social creatures so their keepers need to understand their relationships. Hyenas are tough—but they might need vet care for themselves or for others around them.

Poison Dart Frogs

“Poison dart frog. Costa Rica. Rainforest, Osa Peninsula” by obooble is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The poison dart frog gets its venom from what it eats so even though they can still be risky to have as pets, their venom might not be as deadly as in the wild. They enjoy living in a damp tank with plants and water that moves—just like their homes in nature. They also like to eat fruit flies and tiny crickets for food.


gray paco fish closeup photography
Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

Piranhas need a big tank and a mix of proteins to stay in good shape. Aqueon suggests having them alone or in groups of 5 or more to stop them from eating each other. Even though some places allow keeping these fish—others say no because they’re super aggressive. Baby piranhas can live in a small tank, like 20 gallons. But as they grow up, you’ll need a tank that’s at least 100 gallons or even bigger.

Electric Eels

multicolored sea creatures on corals
Photo by Francisco Jesús Navarro Hernández on Unsplash

Electric eels might not be allowed everywhere, but in some places, you can have them if you get a permit. They need a big tank and should eat fish often to stay well. Because they’re big and can give electric shocks, they’re best for folks who know what they’re doing. These can grow as long as 8 feet (2.5 meters)—and their shocks are strong enough to knock down a horse!

Gila Monsters

“AZ Gila Monster 01” by Josh Olander is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Gila monsters, one of the rare venomous lizards, can be legally owned in some areas with the right permits. To get these permits, folks usually have to show they know how to handle venomous reptiles, proving they can take care of them properly. Owners have to give them eggs and rodents to eat and keep them in a warm, dry tank. To stay safe from bites, it’s super important to handle them as little as possible.

Bengal Tigers

“White Bengal Tiger” by kirainet is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Owning a Bengal tiger in the USA comes with lots of rules—you need state permits and USDA licenses, and you have to follow strict regulations. They need a huge area to run around safely, and it should feel like their natural home to keep them happy and healthy. But remember, tigers aren’t like regular house cats. It’s not safe or right to keep any of the six kinds of tigers (three others are gone) as pets.


“Hermie, a Scutigera coleoptrata (house centipede)” by David and Emma is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In certain places, you can have giant centipedes like the Scolopendra, but you need to be cautious about their bite, which can be pretty dangerous. They’re venomous, and their bite can cause swelling, pain, and sometimes fever in people. To make them feel at home—keep them in a humid tank with stuff for them to burrow in and feed them insects.


“Stingrays and a girl” by Elena Kalis is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In some states, you can have a freshwater stingray, but not everyone has enough space for the big tank they need. Stingrays need lots of room to move around. They eat different things, like shrimp, squid, and mollusks. But you’ve got to be careful because they can use their tail to attack. The little spines have venom and can poke through human skin. If you get stung—it’ll leave a mark and make the area swell up.

Monitor Lizards

“Nile Monitor Lizard.” by Bernard Spragg is licensed under CC CC0 1.0

While rules might differ, you can often have a monitor lizard in many places. They can be fun and friendly pets, but looking after one needs some effort. You’ll need to give them a big home, the right food, and lots of attention every day. These big lizards need huge cages—and it’s easy to forget how much room they’ll need when you see a cute baby monitor.