Is it Legal to Have a Deer as a Pet? Here’s the Real Answer.

Deer are a common animal that many people will occasionally see roaming around their house, and oftentimes will be seen entering people’s property to enjoy food from gardens. So, many people might think to themselves, “Am I allowed to have a deer as a pet?” and depending on what state you are in the answer may vary.

In the vast majority of states, it is not legal to own a deer as a pet. Because deer are wild and fragile, it is difficult to domesticate them, and attempts to do so often lead to the death of the deer or injury to either the person trying to take ownership or the deer that is caught.

However, just because the majority of states don’t allow for you to have a pet deer doesn’t mean it isn’t legal in some states. And while it may pose a risk to both the deer and person, deer that are born into a domesticated lifestyle can become good of family pets.

Common Types of Deer

Within the United States and North America, there are three species of deer that are extremely common.

White-Tailed Deer

This is the most common type of cervid in North America, and they get their name from their white tail that stands up when they sense danger. Typically, like most other deer, the white-tailed deer has a dark brown coat. The white-tail deer can be found in mountain and forest areas, flat plains, and simple grasslands.

Mule Deer

Mule deer tend to live anywhere west of the Texas to North Dakota line. They tend to be larger than the more common white-tailed deer.

They also have a lighter coat than the whitetail, and the tail of the mule deer is often said to look like a small black rope. The easiest way to identify a mule deer is by their run, as it looks like they are on a pogo stick with their bounding trot.

Black-Tailed Deer

The black-tailed deer is the least common of the three, as it lives only on the west coast. To find a black-tailed deer you will have to go to a state like California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, or the western edge of Canada.

The black-tailed deer has the darkest colored coat of the three most common deer species and have a black tail that stands out in contrast to their dark tan body. These deer are also the smallest of the three species of deer, typically weighing only around 100 to 150 pounds.

Why Do Some States Legalize it and Others Do Not?

The vast majority of states have no specific laws when it comes to owning deer because when creating laws for ownership of wild and exotic animals, they group many different animals together, and it is sometimes not clear what exact animals fall under the laws. However, plenty of states have said that you either are or are not allowed to have a deer as a pet.

The states that do allow for you to have a pet deer often also have several other requirements before you can get one. The most common requirement is a permit to own an exotic/wild animal. To get something like this, you have to explain what your plans are in case the animal dies or escapes, as well as how you will raise it to be safe around people. The deer you get will have to be born from a breeder so it can be domesticated safely.

The states that don’t allow you to own a deer as a pet often also have laws prohibiting the ownership of other exotic pets. The main reason that states don’t allow people to own deer as pets are because of the dangers it poses to both the deer and the people.

Deer are fragile animals and the stress that trying to domesticate them may cause the deer to get sick and die. The deer also could attack and cause injury or death to the person that is trying to domesticate them.

Where is it Legal to Have a Pet Deer?

Most states have their own laws on if you are allowed to have a pet deer or not. For those who are interested in getting a pet deer, check out the list below to see if your state has any clear laws regarding your ownership of a deer. (Source)

StateIs it Legal to Have a Pet Deer?
AlabamaNot Allowed
AlaskaYes, but they must be Domesticated
ArizonaNot Allowed
ArkansasYes
CaliforniaNo Specific Laws
ColoradoYes, but only specific breeds
ConnecticutNo Specific Laws
DelawareNo Specific Laws
District of ColombiaNo Specific Laws
FloridaNot allowed to have Whitetail Deer
GeorgiaNo Specific Laws
HawaiiNo Specific Laws
IdahoYes, but you need proper permits
IllinoisNo Specific Laws
IndianaNo Specific Laws
IowaNo Specific Laws
KansasNo Specific Laws
KentuckyNo Specific Laws
LouisianaNo Specific Laws
MaineNot Allowed
MarylandNo Specific Laws
Massachusetts No Specific Laws
MichiganNo Specific Laws
MinnesotaNot Allowed
MississippiNo Specific Laws
MissouriNo Specific Laws
MontanaNo Specific Laws
NebraskaNot Allowed
NevadaNot Allowed
New HampshireNot Allowed
New JerseyNo Specific Laws
New MexicoNo Specific Laws
New YorkNo Specific Laws
North CarolinaNo Specific Laws
North DakotaYes, but you need the proper permits
OhioYes, but with the proper permits
OklahomaYes, but need proper permits
OregonNo Specific Laws
PennsylvaniaNo Specific Laws
Rhode IslandYes, but need proper permits
South CarolinaNo Specific Laws
South DakotaYes
TennesseeYes, except for Whitetail deer
TexasNo Specific Laws
UtahNot allowed to have Mule Deer
VermontNo Specific Laws
VirginiaNo Specific Laws
WashingtonNot allowed to have certain types of deer
West VirginiaNo Specific Laws
WisconsinNo Specific Laws
WyomingNo Specific Laws
If there are “No Specific Laws,” the state doesn’t have any laws specifically about owning deer. Check your state’s exotic game laws to get more details.

Overall, it sometimes is legal to own a deer, but it is not advised because of the harm that will likely come to both the deer and its owner.

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One Comment

  1. Bob McDonell says:

    Black-Tailed deer are the way to go for pets in my opinion especially if one is living on acreage. The B-T deer are smaller in physical size & extremely attractive in appearance. Like all wild deer it takes ‘chow’ they prefer to bring them into ones life. We were located back then(1966 through 68′) in Redland Oregon just east of Oregon city & were situated on 45 acres. We had a manger for feed for our goats. The deer started hitting on that manger & over time must have realized that there was no danger. Eventually the B-T deer made it right into our yard. They were the ones that made contact with us as by that time they realized that these strange two legged creatures came equipped with a variety of food they craved!

    These deer were NOT house deer as some people today have, but yard deer. They would take corn chips, PayDay candy bars, carrots, etc. right out of our hands. Eventually they completely lost their fear of us & often bedded right down on our lawn. Those fawns of theirs were a sight I can never forget!!! We had a phonograph & those old time vinyl records along with those big box speakers in the garage so we could listen to music while doing yard work/fence repair etc. I liked classical music like Brahms Lullaby(strings) & to my surprise so did the Black-Tailed deer!!! They would come up to the garage & stare in a bewildered amazement(?) at the speakers, with extended necks @ first(caution).

    These were not truly a domesticated herd as they always remained ‘wild deer’ but were more on the tamed down side when around us. Again those fawns of theirs are beyond precious like the cutest/funniest & most beautiful playful creatures I have ever seen!