A viral map that has popped up on social media platforms in the past year shows South Carolina as one of only three states that allow unrestricted kangaroo ownership — all others require a permit or ban it outright.
That doesn’t account for possible local ordinances, but it’s an example of a novel aspect of state law: there are regulations on owning many native wildlife but little in regard to wild animals from out of state.
Alligator Adventure in North Myrtle Beach, for example, needs a special permit to keep its gators, but nothing is stopping a private person from penning a kangaroo, S.C. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Chief Billy Dukes said.
DNR doesn’t have a list of private individuals who own wild or exotic animals. As recently as 2006, they did track black bear ownership, and had almost 30 owners on a list then.
“We hear about a lot of those things anecdotally,” Dukes said. “We don’t do any type of reports or compiling of anything like that.”
The Post and Courier has reported on some more unconventional pets over the years, including a Colleton County couple that chained a black bear in their yard until 2011. Since then, one of the few state laws on exotic animal ownership has passed. As of Jan. 1, 2018, it’s illegal to own “large wild cats, non-native bears, and great apes.”
Anyone who owned one of those animals before that date and who still does is supposed to report it to the county they live in. No such animal owners are registered in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, according to spokespeople for those jurisdictions.
Dukes said that owning a wild animal can prove a dangerous proposition.
“We strongly discourage it,” he said. “Wildlife are just that. … They are meant to remain in the wild. They are not domesticated pets. They do not domesticate well.”
Documented cases of exotic animals getting loose in South Carolina are relatively rare, though Dukes said he recalls cases of escaped Patagonian cavies in McCormick County. The small rodents are “between a guinea pig and a rabbit,” he said.
The Greenwood Index Journal also reported last year on another episode, also in McCormick County, where a kangaroo was twice spotted hopping along a rural highway.
The viral kangaroo map also flags West Virginia and Wisconsin as states where kangaroos can roam without restriction. That’s mostly correct.
West Virginia has a board that regulates “dangerous wild animals,” but kangaroos are not included in their purview.
And in Wisconsin, there’s no need for an ownership permit, though towns and cities have their own rules and a permit is required to import one of the animals, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.