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Tennessee laws

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My understanding of the laws in this state.

First and foremost, you can not capture wild reptiles for pets. I believe that even if you only keep them a short time, As soon as you place them in an enclosure, they can not be released. And it is illegal to kill a reptile, unless you are a homeowner who feels threatened on your own property. So if you field herp, practice catch and release. I’m pretty sure Lisa Powers can explain this law to you better than I.

Venomous snakes are illegal, with one exception being the hog nose. Even though the law states poisonous, I’ve been told TWRA would argue “Letter of the Law versus Intent of the law.” I would be interested how this would pan out at trial , but not ready to tackle that yet.

Gila Monsters and Komodo dragons are both illegal.

Colubrids( Corns, rats, kings, etc..), you can legally own, as long as you keep proof that the snake was purchased not wild caught. If you want to sell or breed colubrids, you must purchase a propagation permit which is $250 a year.

Crocodilians (Crocs and Gators), Caimans are the only species legal in Tennessee.

Turtles and Tortoises, no species are legal. You must get an educational permit before you can possess them. My wife and I are just now researching this right now. I’ll post anything I learn.

Any other reptiles, as far as I know, can be legally owned as far as the state is concerned. Local laws do vary so you will need to check your counties and cities, I called animal control or you might be able to find it online at the cities gov’t page.

Large constrictors: Burms, North and South African Rocks, Yellow Anaconda and deschauensee’s anaconda are all legal to own but illegal to transport across a state line or import due to the Lacey Act. This listing is currently being legally contested by USARK.  All other “Giants are currently perfectly legal to the Federal Government. That would be Retics, Boas, Green Andy’s although there are some groups pushing to get these covered by the Lacey Act.

If anyone knows of anything I have mis-stated, or omitted, let me know. If you could shoot me a link, I’d appreciate it. We’ll have to understand these laws to accomplish what we want.

Thanks again,


3 thoughts on “Tennessee laws

  1. Can you post a link to the legality of gila monsters please? I’ve never seen that they were illegal anywhere else. Thank you.

  2. Can someone point me in the direction of finding the wording that either makes rear fanged venomous snakes legal or illegal?
    Hognose? Vine snake?
    I just haven’t been able to find anything specific

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