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Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
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Invertebrate Pets

Examples of invertebrates, left to right: scorpion (by Alexander Potapov, stock.adobe.com), snail (by Dickov, stock.adobe.com), and ant (by PYRAMIS, stock.adobe.com).

Invertebrates are animals without a backbone. They include snails, slugs, insects, isopods, scorpions, spiders, and many other land- and sea-dwelling animals. Invertebrates may seem interesting to keep as pets in a terrarium, but many are illegal to own because they could harm U.S. agriculture and the natural environment if they escape.

That’s why you should contact USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program before buying a land-dwelling invertebrate. You might need a permit to buy it, or the invertebrate might be illegal because it could pose a danger to U.S. agriculture or the environment. Although many vendors in the United States have Federal and State permits and sell approved invertebrates, don’t take chances—reach out to us first and find out if it’s legal to own:

Call: (301) 851-2285, or toll-free (866) 524-5421
Email: Pest.Permits@usda.gov

We also suggest you learn about the PPQ 526 Permit, which covers the importation and interstate movement of invertebrate animals.

Did You Know?

Isopod, Photo by squeebcreative, stock.adobe.com.Isopods are an order of invertebrates that belongs to the greater crustacean group of animals, which includes crabs and shrimp. Isopods can live on land or in the water, and land-dwelling ones can damage crops and ornamental plants. You need a PPQ 526 Permit to legally own many species of isopods, so contact PPQ before buying these invertebrates.

For more information, email Senior Entomologist Carlos Blanco at Carlos.A.Blanco@usda.gov.

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