The law

By law, you generally cannot keep wild animals captive — or release them into the wild — in Ontario.

Some exceptions exist — but are regulated under provincial laws. These include:

  • studying wild animals as part of scientific research (e.g., capturing moose to put on a radio collar to track their movements)
  • undertaking approved educational programs (e.g., at zoos)
  • supporting immediate, authorized hunting opportunities (e.g., game bird hunting preserve)

View the rules under the Fish Wildlife and Conservation Act.

If you keep wild animals in Ontario, you must follow the standards of care set out in the Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act.

Keeping wild animals as pets

Ontario’s laws generally prevent people from keeping the province’s native wildlife as pets.

Activities that require permission

You must get approval to:

  • collect any species of wildlife from natural habitats
  • release any species of wildlife into the wild

You generally need approval to:

  • keep wildlife in captivity (even if you’re caring for them because they’re sick, injured or separated from their mothers)
  • breed wildlife
  • import or export wildlife
  • buy or sell wildlife

Who can keep wildlife in captivity

  • those authorized to keep wildlife for scientific or educational purposes
  • farmers keeping wildlife classified as “farmed animals” in the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act
  • licensed game bird hunting preserves
  • game bird licence holders that propagate and sell game birds
  • licensed zoos
  • licensed falconers
  • authorized wildlife custodians providing care or rehabilitation to sick, injured or orphaned wildlife with the goal of releasing the animal back to the wild
  • licensed dog training and trial areas operating since before the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act came into effect

How to apply to keep in wildlife in captivity

Please contact your local MNRF district office.

Updated: June 01, 2021
Published: April 29, 2014