A Real-Life Hogwarts: Is It Legal to Own an Owl?
If keeping a “regular” pet doesn’t sound challenging enough, you might be craving an exotic animal instead. It may have occurred to you to wave a magic wand and turn your home into Hogwarts Castle. But is it legal to own an owl in the US, and are owls even good pets? As you’ll see, such magic may come with a price.
Hoot: Welcome to the World of Wisdom and Wizardry
In general, people tend to associate birds with freedom. Thanks to their wings, birds know no territorial boundaries, and their world doesn’t seem limited like ours. Even the width of an ocean doesn’t stand a chance against them — some birds can fly continuously for months. If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.
But unlike other birds, owls practice a silent flight. Being raptors, they try not to draw too much attention to themselves. Otherwise, their potential meal would get a heads-up for danger. Among other things, owls’ tranquility seems to give these creatures a somewhat mystical note.
But being mystical also presupposes knowing something others don’t or even keeping secrets. It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, that owls have long stood for wisdom and knowledge.
In ancient Greek mythology, Athena (the Goddess of Wisdom) was so fascinated by the luminous eyes of the owl that she preferred this feathered creature to all other birds. These animals seemed to have an “inner light” that made their eyes glow at night.
Unfortunately, this inner light got a bit darker with time. While a flying owl previously symbolized victory, in early Rome, owls were believed to predict death. The Romans also thought witches transformed into owls to suck the blood of babies. Hoo would’ve believed that?
But what about Hedwig and the company? The famous snowy owl from Harry Potter is there to symbolize childhood innocence and purity. Most importantly, its role is in enhancing the feeling that nothing’s impossible. So, back to your question: Is it legal to own an owl, or does that count as impossible in the real world?
Is It Legal to Own an Owl in America?
While you can legally keep various owls in the UK, many US native owls are federally protected. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act forbids you to own any of the owls from this list as a pet. At the same time, this regulation prohibits the transportation and sale of said migratory birds.
So, if your dream pet owl has made it to the MBTA list, you won’t be able to own it anywhere in the US.
As you can see, Hedwig as a snowy owl is off-limits. But what about other, non-native types of owls? Is it legal to own an owl that isn’t on the MBTA list? A better question would be: where in America can you keep an owl?
While the Federation regulates the possession of native owls, each state has a different law regarding non-native owl species. In other words, whether you’ll be allowed to own an owl in America depends upon your exact location.
Some states, such as Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, etc., explicitly prohibit keeping owls as pets as they fall under exotic animals. Some other states like Florida, Maine, Michigan, and Texas oblige you to have a permit.
Other state rules depend upon whether your owl is dangerous and whether you want it for educational purposes. Therefore, keeping a pet owl might not be possible if you happen to be in one of these states.
You can find out more about state regulations regarding exotic animals here. But if your location doesn’t prevent you from owning an owl, does that mean you should buy it?
Are Owls Good Pets?
If you happen to be in Nevada, Minnesota, Louisiana, or any other state where possessing an owl isn’t a problem, you’d still need to think twice before getting one. Owls live a long time, so you should consider whether an owl would make a good pet.
No one wants to be “stuck” with a pet that doesn’t live up to their expectations. On the other hand, no animal deserves an owner who doesn’t tend to its unique needs.
For this reason, you’ll need to think about both pros and cons of keeping owls as pets. Some of their traits may win you over, but others might make you think twice. With a pet owl and without magic at your disposal, you may be biting off more than you can chew. But take a look at what owls are like as pets and judge for yourself.
Why Keeping an Owl Can Be a Good Idea
Don’t get discouraged just yet because there’s a reason you’re not alone in your desire to own an owl. Here’s why you might be on the right track.
1. Owls Are Exotic
One of the main reasons you may want to have an owl is because of this animal’s uniqueness. Let’s face it — these exotic animals are rare even in nature, let alone in your neighborhood. It’s no wonder that owning an owl might be a dream come true for you. What’s more, these birds do look as if they belonged in a dreamy, magical world.
But the uniqueness of your pet owl won’t just make you happy. Instead, keeping such a rare pet will broaden your horizons more than you can imagine. You’ll get a chance to learn about its unique needs each day and how to tend to them adequately. As it goes, many people would pay a lot for just one day spent near an owl.
2. Owls Are Sedentary
Picture an owl, and you’ll likely be imagining it just standing there, inactive. Unlike other birds of prey, owls tend to spend a lot of time seated in one place. They don’t go looking for their meal but wait for their target to appear instead. That’s why your pet owl would be more than happy sitting on its perch, waiting for its food to arrive.
So, if you’re used to parrots always looking to escape their enclosures, that won’t be the case with an owl. Despite its wild nature, your new pet won’t require a large room to fly around all the time. Just remember to get your owl a secure cage of proper size, and you’ll be good to go. Unlike you, your owl will be good to stay.
3. Owls Don’t Require Much Attention
If you have some experience in bird-keeping, you know how difficult it can get. For instance, parrots require much attention and can get noisy if you happen to ignore them. They’re also likely to draw attention to themselves even when they’re already getting enough of it. On the other hand, your pet owl’s behavior won’t be giving you headaches.
Unlike parrots, owls aren’t extremely friendly, and they won’t be screaming for your attention all the time. Your owl won’t need you to play with it or spend much time around it. Even when it’s not content, chances are it won’t get too loud. Much like Harry’s Hedwig, some owl species don’t hoot a lot.
Why You Shouldn’t Keep an Owl
Is it legal to own an owl in your state? If so, you must be happy about the pros of keeping an owl. But don’t get too excited before you see the other side of the coin.
1. Owls Can Be Dangerous
You might not be surprised to hear that owls pose a threat to other animals. As raptors, owls hunt for other animals like fish, invertebrates, reptiles, or even small birds. If you’re lucky, you might get an owl that feeds mainly on insects. Otherwise, you’ll have to keep a keen eye on your raptor pet with other pets around.
But owls can also be dangerous for your possessions. They have sharp beaks that can easily scratch wooden objects or destroy soft fabrics. That’s why you’ll need to pay special attention to your pet’s behavior outside its cage. You wouldn’t want your favorite piece of jewelry to end up in your owl’s stomach, would you?
2. A Pet Owl Could Limit Your Travels
Are you used to leaving Hogwarts often to travel to some even more exotic places? Unfortunately, with a pet owl, you might find yourself locked in your castle instead. Traveling with a pet owl won’t be a piece of cake. Thanks to the above local regulations, crossing a state border may even prove impossible in such a situation.
As you’ll see, deciding to go on a trip leaving your owl behind could also be impossible. Chances are, your family, friends, or neighbors won’t have a clue how to look after a pet owl. More importantly, your owl might not be too happy about it either. These birds can get attached to people, so your owl could be more stressed or aggressive in someone else’s presence.
3. Owls Are… Night Owls
Do you regularly have business meetings early in the morning? These require a good night’s sleep more than anything. Unlike you, your pet owl won’t be an early bird since it has nowhere to go. Plus, your owl is a nocturnal animal that will gather its strength during the day and hunt at night.
Much like other night predators, owls tend to spend most of their daytime dozing off in silence. But when the night comes, their prey drive comes to life. That’s when your owl will be more active and noisy, thanks to its predatory nature. During the owls’ mating season, even your neighbors might have trouble sleeping.
4. Owls Have Special Diets
Unlike pet parrots, owls are carnivores that feed on other smaller animals. So, bird pellets from your local pet store won’t be able to keep your owl’s stomach full. What’s more, those won’t even be suitable for its diet. Your owl could develop health problems if it gets fed on the things it wouldn’t normally eat.
Professional falconers usually have freezers with rodents and insects that serve as owl food. These might be hard to get, as they won’t be available in pet stores. Keep that in mind before you sign up for as many as 20 years of owl feeding.
How Much Would It Cost to Keep an Owl?
If money’s an issue for you, this might be yet another con to keeping an owl. It may not come as a surprise that owls can cost much more than non-exotic pets. To own a captive-bred owl such as the Eurasian Eagle Owl, you’ll have to pay somewhere between $3,000 and $3,500.
But as you’ve figured, that’s just the beginning.
The costs of keeping owls are much higher, especially given their longevity. There are many things to think about, such as providing your pet with enough food and adequate shelter.
In terms of food, you could spend about $40 a month on mice. Since experts recommend having at least a 3-months worth of owl food in your freezer, you’ll need to spare some money in advance.
Also, your owl’s cage will have to be spacious enough because your pet needs at least some exercise. An owl enclosure with access to both indoor and outdoor spaces is called a mew. And a perfect mew with everything your pet likes, including perches, can cost you more than $1,000.
Yet another thing to think about is vet costs. Is it possible to keep an owl where you’re from? Great, but a trained owl vet might be nowhere to find. If you do happen to find an experienced vet in your state, prepare to pay more than $300 for an annual exam.
If you’ve been into magic ever since the first Harry Potter book came out, owls are your dream pets. It might have occurred to you to buy one, but is it legal to own an owl in America?
While the federal law says certain owl species can be pets, some states beg to differ. Depending on your exact location, you might not be able to own an owl or may need a permit.
Even if keeping an owl is possible in your state, you’ll need to consider whether owls make good pets. These birds might keep you up at night and pose a threat to your other pets and possessions. They also have special diets and may require expensive care. So, before you get yourself a cutie like Hedwig, make sure you’ve thought everything through.