Q&A: Owning Reptiles in Minnesota

Updated: 03/21/2013 10:44 PM KSTP.com By: Scott Theisen

After a Lakeville teenager found a small alligator on an area lake, we wanted to know more about the rules and regulations for keeping reptiles as pets in Minnesota.

Minnesota Herpetological Society Vice President Dave Kaufman answered our questions:

Q: What are the rules for owning reptiles in MN? The state statute does not specifically mention reptiles, are there city or county statutes that do? 

A: First we want to be very clear that alligators DO NOT make good pets despite how cute they are as babies when most are bought. Because this type of thing is such a rare occurrence, some cities have specific statutes pertaining to keeping reptiles.

Q: Can someone be fined or otherwise punished for owning an exotic animal? 

A: There can be fines if the statutes call for it. The vast majority of reptile keepers are responsible individuals that know and adhere to their local laws and statues.

Q: What should you do if you've come into possession of an exotic animal? Are there reptile or exotic animal rescue facilities?  How should one dispose of an exotic animal that dies?

A: In the very rare instance that you come into contact with an exotic animal, one can call their local humane society, or contact one of the board members of the Minnesota Herpetological Society found at www.mnherpsoc.com.

Likewise, if someone has come into possession of specifically a reptile or an amphibian, they can contact our adoption program, and they can be assured it will go to a good home. They can also contact Animal Control (311) if there is an immediate danger to the animal.

Q: What are the dangers/issues with releasing an animal? In the case of the alligator found in Lakeville, could the animal survive?  If so, what kind of a danger would that pose to the environment or to people?

Unfortunately, one or two irresponsible people can ruin it for the literally tens of thousands of responsible reptile keepers in Minnesota and across the country. Releasing an animal in its non-native habitat is the single worst thing someone can do to that animal. In the case of this alligator, it could survive during the summer months, but would quickly succumb to our weather in the fall, as apparently it has. There would be little to no danger to humans because the alligator is more afraid of us than some are of him, so contact would not be an issue. Releasing an alligator in a Minnesota lake is like someone taking you to the African bush, and expecting you to survive in that foreign environment.