Taming the Concrete Jungle in Arlington

Taming the Concrete Jungle in Arlington

Board approves reformed exotic animal ban.

Six-foot long albino python slipping into the Arlington sewers.

Six-foot long albino python slipping into the Arlington sewers. Photo contributed by Jennifer Toussaint, Arlington’s Animal Control Officer


Loose six-foot long albino python in a dog cage at the Animal Welfare League.

After a year of back and forth, the Arlington County Board finally pulled the trigger and killed the exotic animal allowances.

In a unanimous decision around 1 a.m. on Sept. 16, the County Board banned wild and exotic animals as pets in Arlington County.

According to County staff, the code changes are part of an effort to protect both local humans and animals. Venomous snakes were banned in 2008 after first responders encountered them in a dangerous situation, and since then recurring incidents involving escaped exotic animals have prompted a closer look at the county’s laissez faire approach to exotic pets.

The new regulations proposed earlier in 2017 prompted outrage from the local exotic pet owner community, with hedgehogs being put forward as the face of exotic pets that would be banned. The presentation on Sept. 16 started with a picture of a smiling hedgehog and announced that the new legislation would be less restrictive than what was initially proposed. Hedgehogs and sugar gliders, prohibited in the earlier proposals, would be allowed in Arlington County. Only venomous spiders and scorpions would be prohibited and large non-venomous snakes would not be prohibited, though more safety standards would be put in place to ensure their proper care. Unlike the sharply divided meeting in March, the public comment to the new exotic animal ban was almost universal support.

“[People] came together on an issue that created sharp divisions,” said County Board member Christian Dorsey. “We got to a point where not everyone is unhappy.”

The new exotic animal ban was approved unanimously. Exotic animals currently living in Arlington will be allowed to remain if they are registered with the county.

Animals affected by the ban include:

  • Non-human primates

  • Raccoons

  • Skunks

  • Wolves or wolf hybrids

  • Coyotes

  • Squirrels

  • Foxes

  • Leopards

  • Panthers

  • Tigers

  • Lions

  • Bears

  • Wild cats including hybrids (i.e., bobcat, lynx and caracal),

  • Ratites (flightless birds)

  • Crocodilians

  • Venomous snakes, venomous reptiles

  • Any other warm-blooded mammal that can normally be found in the wild state

  • Members of the order Scorpiones (scorpions) other than those in the genus Pandinus, which are permitted

  • Centipedes of the genus Scolopendra

  • Spiders of the genus Latrodectus (widow spiders); spiders of the genus Loxosceles (recluse spiders); spiders of the family Dipluridae (funnel-web spiders); spiders of the genus Phoneutria (banana spiders aka wandering spiders); spiders of the family Ctenizidae (trap-door spiders); spiders of the genus Sicarius (sand spiders); and spiders of the family Theraphosidae (tarantulas) except for Theraphosids native to North and South America, and Brachypelma smithi (Mexican redknee tarantula), which are not permitted.