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Legalize the Private Possession of Foxes in NC With Permit

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                      Photo of Evienne the Fox © Lindsey Hembree


Foxes are currently one of the few animals restricted from private owners in the state of North Carolina, unjustly labeled as rabies vectors, even when in captivity. Considering the threat they pose to both humans and the environment is minimal, there is no reason as to why this animal should be banned purely because of the paranoia that they will spread rabies.


Unclear Laws and Definitions:

  NC state law states the following;

"...A permit must be obtained from the NCDA&CS State Veterinarian before importing any of the following animals into North Carolina: skunk; fox; raccoon; ringtail; bobcat; other North and South American felines such as lynx, cougars, jaguars, etc.; marten; brushtail possum. Permits shall be issued only if the animal(s) will be used in a research institute, exhibition by a USDA licensed exhibitor, or organized entertainment as in zoos or circuses."

This means, if you found it confusing, that it is illegal import any species of fox into NC without a USDA license and special permit. However, if you contact the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, they will tell you that this law is pertaining to native species only, the red and gray fox. Non-native species of foxes, like the fennec and arctic fox, are apparently not regulated.. According to responses given to multiple people who have inquired.

 In this case, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission intends to only restrict the importation and ownership of native species of foxes, but unintentionally, due to completely missing definitions, they have restricted the importation of all foxes!

The issue here is that the word "fox" is used without any clarification as to which species of foxes they are referring to, therefore in the eyes of the law it is still illegal to import any species of fox, even if the NC Wildlife Resource Commission tells you it's okay. This could very easily be fixed by making a quick edit to the law that properly defines that said law applies to native species only.

Why the (Pet) Fox Isn't a Threat to Humans:

  • The bite force of the red fox is 92, compared to domestic dogs which are generally rated as 117 or more, depending on the breed. Smaller foxes, like the fennec fox, have a bite that is less powerful than a cat! Though of course, bites are bites, and will still do damage or possibly require medical assistance.
  • Foxes generally only act aggressive towards humans when they feel threatened or as a last resort to escape an uncomfortable situation. They would cause very little harm to humans in the case of an escape, as they would avoid any people encountered while outside and instead choose to flee from frightening situations.
  • Foxes, when in captive environments, are extremely unlikely to contract the rabies virus. They would not be exposed to an infected animal, therefore would have the same chances as a cat (when unvaccinated) of being infected themselves. Foxes can be vaccinated against the rabies virus, but like all exotic pets, there is no scientific evidence that it works in immunizing the animal. It is worth noting that while cats manage to be one of the biggest rabies vectors, even in captivity, that there has been no reported cases of a pet fox contracting the rabies virus.

Why the (Pet) Fox Isn't a Threat to the Environment:  

  • Foxes in captivity do not naturally retain 100% of their wild instincts due to multiple generations of captive breeding as well as being raised in a captive environment by a human, also being bottle raised and imprinted. The chances of a pet fox escaping and being able to survive by itself is highly unlikely; the animal would most likely starve or be killed from other animals or people.
  • Foxes, when in captivity, do not innately carry any diseases that can potentially harm the environment. 
  • Foxes (red, arctic, gray, fennec...) are readily available in the exotic pet trade, being an animal that has been captive bred for many, many years, domesticated for the fur farm trade since 1895, though the past decade or two the domesticated fur farm foxes have been being bred specifically to be pets. They are not taken from the wild, and the chances of finding someone who did so is extremely rare, already illegal, and unrelated to the legal exotic pet trade of captive bred animals. Owning a pet fox has absolutely no impact to the environment and poses just as much of a risk to it as your dog, and are of less concern than cats, which maintain feral populations that are legitimately harmful to the environment.

Why (Responsibly) Owning a Fox Isn't Degrading to the Animal:

  • Foxes in general are highly adaptable animals. They do not suffer in captivity when proper care is provided.
  • Foxes bond strongly with their owners, like any other pet. They enjoy the company of their owners (on their own terms, of course.) and exploring their homes.
  • Red and Arctic "ranch" foxes are domesticated. As stated above, they were domesticated for the fur farming industry. This is not debatable as even the US Code defines them as such

 Foxes are rewarding and beautiful animals, albeit difficult animals for some people to care for. Some people purchase them without knowing anything about their specific behavior and needs- an issue every species of animal faces, domestic or exotic. That is why requiring a permit for foxes (and possibly other banned exotics in the state) would be optimal for the welfare of the animals.  

 A permit system similar to Florida's would be best (foxes are listed as class III), and I have added a link below to the application and information for anyone reading this who is interested. This system would not prohibit people from owning the red fox as a pet; it would ensure that only knowledgeable and responsible people obtain them. I feel that a system similar or identical to this would work best, although if the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission does not feel the same, it is not necessary.


 Please sign this petition if you would like to see foxes become a legal animals to own as a pet in North Carolina. There is no logical reason to ban them or restrict their importation, and It is unfair to judge an entire species based off of a virus their wild brethren commonly contract and spread, and to refuse to edit unclear or fault laws out of laziness or complete lack of care towards the subject.


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