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Is it Legal to Own a Pet Sloth in Kentucky?


Kentucky has a long list of prohibited exotic wildlife that it considers “environmentally injurious” or “inherently dangerous.” The purpose is to protect the general public and native wildlife from the dangers posed by certain types of wildlife. 

Some species of exotic wildlife are considered “environmentally injurious,” meaning they pose a threat to the native environment. State law prohibits importing, possessing, or transporting environmentally injurious animals through the state. Examples of environmentally injurious animals include prairie dogs, jackrabbits, and fruit bats.

Likewise, you cannot import or possess inherently dangerous exotic animals. Inherently dangerous exotic species include, but are not limited to, bears, honey badgers, lions, crocodiles, and hyenas. However, there are a few narrow exemptions under state law.

Finally, there are species of prohibited native wildlife that you cannot import or possess, including wolves, black bears, alligator snapping turtles, and mountain lions. A few native wildlife species cannot be imported or transported through Kentucky, including coyotes, raccoons, coyotes, and skunks. 

Sloths do not appear on any of the lists of prohibited animals. Therefore, unless there is a local ordinance prohibiting owning a sloth, you may have a pet sloth in Kentucky. However, you must have a wildlife transportation permit.

What is a Wildlife Transportation Permit?

If you are receiving, importing, or transporting wildlife in or through Kentucky, you must have a wildlife transportation permit. An individual transportation permit is valid for one shipment. Annual wildlife transportation permits are valid for multiple wildlife shipments. 

You must also have a veterinary inspection certificate that stays with the animal during shipment. 

The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources does not issue permits for possession of exotic wildlife. Even though sloths do not appear on the list of prohibited exotic wildlife, it is best to check with state and local officials to ensure you are not violating any laws by owning a pet sloth.

It is also wise to consider whether a sloth would make a good pet before investing in an exotic animal.

Do Sloths Make Good Pets?

Many people have fallen in love with sloths after viewing the adorable memes, photos, and videos available online. However, sloths do not make the best pets. They are sedentary creatures who do not like to be held or touched.

Sloths live in northern South America and Central America. They spend most of their time in the tops of trees in the tropical rainforests. They eat, sleep, and mate hanging upside down in a tree. 

Sloths only come down about once a week to go to the bathroom. They sleep for roughly 15 hours a day, mainly during the daytime. They wake up at night to eat. 

A sloth can grow to the size of a small dog (about 2.15 feet) and weigh about 10 to 17 pounds. They can live for over 30 years in captivity. Therefore, having a pet sloth is a long-term commitment. 

Sloths may move slowly, but they are capable of causing severe harm when threatened. They have three to four-inch claws that they use to defend themselves. They will also bite and are surprisingly strong.

A sloth has coarse fur on which two types of algae grow. Ticks, beetles, mites, and other insects are attracted to the algae. 

Sloths have a special diet of fruit, leaves, and some fresh green shoots. It may be difficult to find a veterinarian nearby who is willing to provide vet care for a sloth. 

Can You Be Sued Because of Your Pet Sloth?

Yes, you can be sued if your pet sloth causes harm to anyone visiting your home or another animal. Property owners owe a duty of care to their invitees and guests. If your pet sloth were to attack or bite someone in your home, you could be financially liable for damages.

Damages caused by an animal attack include:

  • The cost of medical care and treatment
  • Loss of income and benefits
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress and mental trauma
  • Permanent impairments and disabilities

Your homeowner’s insurance policy may or may not cover damages caused by an exotic pet. Many insurance policies have exceptions to these types of claims unless you purchase a special rider to the policy.

Therefore, you could be liable for thousands of dollars in damages if your pet sloth bites your friend or relative. 

What Should You Do if an Animal Attacks or Bites You?

If an animal attacks or bites you or your child, seek immediate medical attention for the injuries. Report the attack to the animal’s owner and the local animal control office. Depending on the situation, you may want to file a police report.

Take photographs of your injuries and keep detailed records of all expenses and financial losses associated with the animal bite. You may also want to contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights regarding a premises liability claim or personal injury claim. 

Suppose you are the owner of the animal. In that case, it may be wise to consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss any criminal charges that could be associated with the animal attack. 

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