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Exotic Animals Law in Tennessee

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Reviewed Date: May 30, 2017

Original Author: 
Hemsley, Sid
Date of Material: 
Oct 8, 2001

Animal control
Animal control--Laws and regulations

Exotic Animals Law in Tennessee

MTAS was asked if Tennessee has an exotic animals law and if private property owners are prohibited from keeping pythons.

October 8, 2001

Dear Sir:

You have the following question: Does Tennessee have an exotic animals law, and if it does, are pythons prohibited to be kept by private property owners under that law?

Tennessee does have an exotic animal law, but pythons are a Class III animal under that law, and private property owners are not prohibited from keeping them.

Tennessee Code Annotated, § 70-4-403 et seq., is Tennessee’s exotic animal law. It puts “live wildlife” into five classifications. Animals in Class I are “inherently dangerous” and generally can be kept only by zoos, circuses and commercial propagators. Poisonous snakes are a Class I animal. However, non-poisonous snakes are a Class III animal. Under Tennessee Code Annotated, § 70-4-403(3), no permits are required for Class III animals. My research indicates that pythons are not poisonous snakes.

Tennessee Code Annotated, § 70-4-403 et seq., permits the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) to adopt regulations adding animals to, and removing them from, various classifications. TWRA has added some animals to various classifications, but has not changed the classification of pythons. [Rules and Regulations of the state of Tennessee, 1660-1-18].

Tennessee Code Annotated, § 70-4-405, contains provisions governing the keeping of wildlife, apparently including Class III animals. I have attached a copy of those provisions. The Rules and Regulations of the State of Tennessee adopted by the TWRA also contain regulations governing facilities for certain classes of animals, but do not appear to include Class III animals.


Sidney D. Hemsley
Senior Law Consultant

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