Axolotls are illegal in California - here are the relevant laws

John

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Thanks to Travis Summers for originally posting this here.

California residents, please be advised that ignorance of your local laws is not a legal defence.
The possession of Axolotls or any Ambystoma species is a crime in the state of California.

It does not matter what your local pet store says, or that you bought them from out of state. It doesn't matter if your local fish and game people in California are not trained well enough at their job to know that Axolotls are illegal there.

(Related to this, it is a violation of US Federal law to ship an axolotl to California from a state outside California where Axolotls are legal. Sadly, one of the testimonials on the AGSC's "Alternative Suppliers" page indicates this does take place. If you wish to report violations by sellers anywhere in the US, contact California Fish and Game Warden Kyle Chang at KCHANG@dfg.ca.gov).

But don't take our word on the illegality of possessing Axolotls in California. Please read the law at the California Department of Fish and Game:

http://www.dfg.ca.gov/licensing/pdffiles/fg1518.pdf

Direct your attention to Title 14 on page 7, right hand column, and then look at the Amphibian species listed a page down in section 3 of that title.

In the event that the web document at the Department of Fish and Game in California is moved, I've attached a copy to this message.

Here is a direct quote of Title 14 and the relevant amphibian species:

California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Excerpts
§671. Importation, Transportation and Possession of
Live Restricted Animals.
(a) It shall be unlawful to import, transport, or possess
alive animals restricted in subsection (c) below except under
permit issued by the Department of Fish and Game. Permits
may be issued by the department as specified herein and for
purposes designated in Section 671.1 subject to the conditions
and restrictions designated by the department. Except
for mammals listed in Fish and Game Code Section 3950 or
live aquatic animals requiring a permit pursuant to Fish and
Game Code Section 2271, no permit is required by this section
for any animal being imported, transported, or possessed
pursuant to any other permit issued by the department. Cities
and counties may also possession or require a permit for these
and any other species not requiring a state permit.
(b) The commission has determined the below listed animals
are not normally domesticated in this state. Mammals
listed to prevent the depletion of wild populations and to provide
for animal welfare are termed “welfare animals”, and are
designated by the letter “W”. Those species listed because
they pose a threat to native wildlife, the agriculture interests of
the state or to public health or safety are termed “detrimental
animals” and are designated by the letter “D”. The department
shall include the list of welfare and detrimental wild animals
as part of DFG MANUAL NO. 671 IMPORTATION, TRANSPORTATION
AND POSSESSION OF RESTRICTED SPECIES,
to be made available to all permittees and other interested
individuals.
(c) Restricted species include:
...
(3) Class Amphibia-Frogs, Toads, Salamanders
(A) Family Bufonidae-Toads Bufo marinus, Bufo paracnemis,
Bufo horribilis (Giant toad or marine toad
group) and all other large toads from Mexico and Central
and South America (D).
(B) Family Pipidae-Tongueless Toads
All species of the Genus Xenopus (D).
(C) Family Ambystomatidae-Mole Salamanders
All species of the genus Ambystoma (tiger
salamanders)
 

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damien

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"(C) Family Ambystomatidae-Mole Salamanders
All species of the genus Ambystoma (tiger
salamanders)"

(quote of Title 14 )

I must say this is a bit confusing. I don't know if anyone has any clarification on this, but it looks either incomplete or faulty.

The way I read it is this:
"From the Family Ambistomatidae (Mole-salamanders), all species of Ambystoma (tiger salamanders) are illegal."

If they would mean that ALL Ambystomids are illegal, why do they write "All species of the genus Ambystoma (tiger salamanders)"
Since they call Ambistomatidae Mole salamanders, why do they specifically name Tiger salamanders, even though the genus Ambystoma is the only genus in Ambystomatidae. Now I'm not an expert (not in a long shot), but if they were to say that all Ambystoma-species are illegal, wouldn't it suffice to say that all species from the family Ambystomatidae are illegal?

To me it looks like they mean to say this:
C) Family Ambystomatidae-Mole Salamanders
All species of the genus Ambystoma tigrinum(tiger
salamanders)
(My interpretation)

Is this a defect in my brain, or is it just unclear?
 

Greatwtehunter

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Scientific names take presedence over common names. Even though it says Tiger salamanders it is still refering to the whole genus Ambystoma.
 

damien

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It's true that the scientific names count, but I wonder if they actually meant to only make tiger salamanders illegal, but forgot to add 'tigrinum', meaning that by mistake they made all ambystomids illegal. The way the sentence is build up hints to this.
 

SludgeMunkey

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All Ambystomids are illegal to own in California due to the very real threat of hybridization with native Ambystomids. The term "tiger salamander" is moot.
 

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Sadly, one of the testimonials on the AGSC's "Alternative Suppliers" page indicates this does take place.


I was trying to figure which testimonial you were referring to. Can you give me another clue?
 
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t_summ

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Please, Please, Please...

If you see axolotls for sale in California pet shops, please report them to the above CFG Warden. If these amazing little creatures continue to be sold to inexperienced people who think that releasing them into the wild is the smart idea, then the laws regarding keeping animals in California will become more restrictive. There is also a need to shut this practice down in pet stores in order to protect the animals themselves.

Thank you for posting the information again, John.
 

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Just for clarity purposes. Ambystoma were ultimately banned as a result of fishermen releasing their bait in the state. Not from pet owners abandoning their pets. At least so far I haven't heard any stories of pet owners releasing their axolotls into the wild and interbreeding. If it does happen now, perhaps it's because they fear the repercussions of being caught with an illegal pet.
 

froggy

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Can I add that the specification of Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma is useful in that Dicamptodon is considered part of the same family by some authorities.
 

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Can I add that the specification of Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma is useful in that Dicamptodon is considered part of the same family by some authorities.


Wait...it says nothing in there about Dicamptodon...

I don't think the authorities are confused about the species here. I have emailed a very intelligent agent at the DFG, and he knew what he was talking about.

I know that ages ago the Dicamptodon was associated with the Ambystomatids...but I think most herpetologists at the Department of Fish and Game know the difference.

Bottom line is........STAY AWAY FROM ALL AMBYSTOMA!!!
 

John

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Can I add that the specification of Ambystomatidae: Ambystoma is useful in that Dicamptodon is considered part of the same family by some authorities.
That's a good point. Dicamptodon were very recently classified back into Ambystomatidae so anyone keeping them in California should probably start looking over their shoulder in the next few years.
 

pete

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That's a good point. Dicamptodon were very recently classified back into Ambystomatidae so anyone keeping them in California should probably start looking over their shoulder in the next few years.

Not until they ban the whole family. For now only the genus Ambystoma is banned. Maybe it's coming though. If it happens, perhaps I'll give up exotics and take up a traditional pet like a cat, which has no environmental impact on native species when they're released.... ;)
 

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I'm guessing the cat remark is aimed at the fact that those soft fuzzy killing machines are responsible for the deaths of millions of songbirds every year.
 

lexmiller

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That's a good point. Dicamptodon were very recently classified back into Ambystomatidae so anyone keeping them in California should probably start looking over their shoulder in the next few years.


Say it ain't so John!!! Man...I had no idea that Dicamptodon was back in the Ambystomatidae family. It's getting very hard to be a herpetologist in California. Yep...the DFG will definately blanket the Dicamptodon in with the Tigers then.
 

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Well i'll be Darned. I currently own Six Axolotls; not only that..... I live in California! Any suggestions on what I should do? I mean. I am NOT going to kill them. Give them away? HECK NO! let them loose into the wild? Not a Chance... Just keep them?

What makes it worse is that I just got a batch of eggs! About 100... I have a whole line up of people waiting to get their hands on them... And then I read this posting! Darn it! What To do. What to do!?

Suggestions will be considered! Thanks!

-Josue:uhoh:
 

SludgeMunkey

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You should contact your local Fish and Game and find out how to deal with the situation properly. Since they like to prowl this site and others, they may contact you first.:eek:
 

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Chances are if you have axolotls in the state then you would have to hand them over to the state, which likely will euthanize them. Certainly you should not distribute any eggs to any other individuals, and put someone else in a similar situation as yourself. Certainly do not release them. If you don't want them anymore you should turn them over to the state instead. What you choose to do (legally or illegally) is up to you.

This will be a continuing problem for the state, because axolotls are still quite easy to obtain in pet stores.
 

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Well i'll be Darned. I currently own Six Axolotls; not only that..... I live in California! Any suggestions on what I should do?
-Josue:uhoh:

You need to dummy up. I don't advocate keeping animals that are not legal. I don't advocate public posting that you are breaking the law. My guess is the law is not actively enforced. Keep your head down when the cops go by. Look into quitting your evil ways.
 

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What makes it worse is that I just got a batch of eggs! About 100... I have a whole line up of people waiting to get their hands on them... And then I read this posting! Darn it! What To do. What to do!?

I would recommend euthanizing the eggs immediately. I know it will be heartbreaking to do this, but it really is the best thing, both for you and for the people who think they want them. Before the embryo develops a nervous system, they cannot feel pain. So at this stage it is still OK to freeze them. Later, you would need to use other means, like diluted alcohol.

You should separate your males from females to prevent further reproduction. And I agree with the advice that you probably shouldn't post about your law-breaking activities on public forums.
 

lexmiller

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Would it be possible for SWAYMAN to ship them to other places to other people not hindered by the anti-Axolotl law??? I am sure there are many on this site who would take them off your hands....or would that be another illegal act?


I wish people couldn't buy them here and then there would not be this problem. I do not envy the decision you must make SWAYMAN.
 
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