The law in Hawaii is crystal clear: hamsters are on the banned list of exotic pets. Hawaii is adamant about preserving its fragile ecosystem and delicate wildlife.
Hamsters are considered to be an invasive species and can drastically increase numbers to threatening levels through aggressive breeding tactics. This may be harmful to the local flora and fauna of Hawaii. Let’s find out more.
The Strict Pet Laws of Hawaii
Hawaii has introduced several laws and regulations to preserve the native animal and plant life of the island. Hamsters aren’t the only pet restricted on the stunning island of Hawaii.
Other banned animals include hermit crabs, gerbils, Bengal cats, snakes, and snapping turtles. Hawaii’s stance on hamsters is even more strict than California’s.
This is because California allows residents to own certain hamster species, such as the golden hamster or the dwarf hamster. Hawaii has no such exception to the law.
This is because Hawaii has a more complex and fragile ecosystem currently threatened by various cats, snakes, and predatory animals.
The risk of introducing hamsters is too high and could throw the local flora and fauna into disarray.
Moreover, Hawaii is adamant about introducing strict animal laws instead of making exceptions. For example, in 2018, Hawaii banned the transportation of lions, bears, and other wild animals for public exhibitions and circuses.
Read more: Why Does My Hamster Keep Scratching
What Happens if You Have an Illegal Hamster in Hawaii?
It is rare for people to get prosecuted and fined for keeping illegal hamsters as pets. The state will remove the animal from your care if you are found to be keeping a hamster.
You may also face prosecution, depending on the circumstances. First-time offenders will be notified never to keep the pets again with threats of dire consequences.
However, repeat offenders are likely to face one of the consequences below:
- A fine that ranges from $500 to $10,000 for the expenses involved in removing the animal and taking care of it.
- Criminal prosecution for a misdemeanor has a fine of up to $1000 and may also require serving time behind bars in county jail.
However, the most likely outcome is that the state will remove the hamster from your care. The government rarely fines people for keeping hamsters as pets, it is not unheard of for it to happen.
The state will try to look after the hamster but may put the animal to sleep if it is a burden.
Alternatives to Hamsters in Hawaii
Hamsters may be banned in Hawaii, but certain animals can be brought into the state. Let’s take a look at a few of these pets that serve as a suitable alternatives to hamsters:
Rats are just about everywhere, and Hawaii cannot realistically enforce a ban. So it is no surprise that rats can be used as domesticated pets.
They can be purchased in pet stores across Hawaii very easily. The only problem with rats is that they can be just as, if not more, disastrous to the island’s ecosystem.
Note that if you plan on importing domesticated rats into Hawaii, you will have to provide paperwork that shows they don’t have rabies.
Hawaii is a rabies-free state and officials are very keen on keeping it that way. This is why if you don’t carry documentation related to the health of your rats, your pets may be quarantined for months.
This is a long period considering that rats have a relatively short lifespan of about two years.
Just like rats, mice can be used as domesticated pets. You can find domesticated mice in most pet stores across the island.
Mice are more popular than rats because they are generally more playful and friendly. They are social creatures that prefer to live with other mice.
You will have to provide them with plenty of space for roaming and exploration.
Chinchillas have a very similar appearance to rabbits. They are playful animals and very active. Like hamsters, chinchillas are nocturnal animals and prefer to sleep during the day.
They don’t like to hold still and would rather keep moving and exploring. Make sure to provide them with plenty of space to move around.
Guinea pigs are fully legal in Hawaii. They can be bought and sold without restrictions. Moreover, you can also bring your guinea pigs from different states.
You must demonstrate that your guinea pigs do not have rabies. This means providing the state with extensive paperwork proving that the guinea pig is in good health.
If you don’t have proper documentation, your pet will be rendered illegal, and the officials will be forced to remove it.
Will Hamsters Ever Be Legal in Hawaii?
The likelihood of hamsters being legal is extremely low. Hawaii has barely protected its delicate ecosystem from invasive species like cat breeds and snakes.
These laws will continue to get tightened, and the list of banned pets will get more expansive. You can always advocate for policy change by contacting your state representatives.
But your cause would require massive public support to make any difference. This is because the locals also understand the risks involved. Expect stiff resistance from organizations like PETA!
Hawaii isn’t the Only State Prohibiting Hamsters
While Hawaii has stringent pet ownership laws, it’s not the only state where you aren’t allowed to keep a hamster as a pet.
It is also illegal to keep a hamster as a pet in California for the same reasons. California does make exceptions for select breeds of hamsters, but Hawaii places an outright ban on the little fur balls.
How Can Hamsters Damage the Ecosystem
When it comes to hamsters, appearances can be deceiving. These little fur balls can quickly increase their numbers through aggressive breeding.
This, in turn, will devastate Hawaii’s fragile ecosystem and the flora and fauna within it.
Without restrictive regulations prohibiting the ownership of pet hamsters in Hawaii, most of these animals would escape into the wild, one way or another.
They may escape their enclosures or the owner may release them into the wild. If this were to happen, hamsters will endanger Hawaii’s delicate ecosystem, jeopardizing other animals’ existence.
Hamsters are omnivorous animals and can eat all kinds of food. This includes slugs, worms, beetles, and various invertebrates.
They may also resort to eating plants, eggs, and baby birds. Hamsters have massive appetites and spend most of their waking time looking for food.
As you probably know, many of the environment’s birds, invertebrates, and plants play a crucial role in keeping the ecosystem balanced.
If hamsters were to run amok on the island and eat these living creatures, the delicate ecosystem would be thrown out of whack.
For this reason, Hawaii is cautious about which animals they allow for use in the state. You can rest assured that repeat offenders found with pet hamsters will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law if caught.
This is why it is never wise to bring hamsters to Hawaii. Instead, you should make do with one of the various alternatives to hamsters, such as chinchillas, mice, and rats.
Read more: Why Is My Hamster Eating His Bedding
Disadvantages of Keeping Hamsters as Pets
Besides the above restriction, there are a few disadvantages to keeping hamsters as pets. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
They Bite… a Lot
Hamsters have poor eyesight – this makes sense because they are nocturnal creatures and depend on their senses to navigate the environment.
This also means they are likelier to bite you if you stick your finger into their cage. Hamsters can’t always tell if it’s you or someone else.
Hamsters do have a decent bite force that can cause bleeding. This is why you should always handle hamsters cautiously, especially if you have smaller children around you.
Many people fail to take into account the fact that hamsters are nocturnal animals. This means they like to spend most of their days sleeping and can become aggressive if distributed.
At nighttime, they will become highly active – and you may not like this behavior if you’re trying to catch some shuteye. Hamsters can be loud and run around their wheels, making a lot of noise.
Hamsters are vulnerable to various viruses and diseases, some of which are harmful to humans. Although rare, it is not unheard of for small children to catch these conditions.
Some of the biggest problems with hamsters include:
- Salmonella bacteria: they cause stomach cramps, fever, and diarrhea
- Hantavirus: these viruses can be easily transmitted from hamsters to humans
These issues can be minimized by taking good care of the hamster, as well as washing your hands after handling the animal.
They can Escape Easily
Hamsters are extremely curious creatures. And while it’s fun observing them move about in their cages, hamsters often want to explore the outside environment.
They will look for escape routes and claw their way through the cage if need be. This is a major problem if you happen to be carrying a hamster in Hawaii.
It can be quite a chore to start a manhunt for a lost hamster. These little creatures can find their way into any nook and cranny.
So there you have it, a closer look at why hamsters are illegal in Hawaii. If you are traveling to Hawaii, consider giving your hamster to a caretaker until you return.
And if you really want to live with your hamster, we recommend changing states that make them legal. Until then, your best bet is to look for alternatives to hamsters and pester your state representative to reconsider the law.
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My name is Everly. I am a Milwaukee-based mom of 2 and have been a proud owner of many hamsters throughout my life. Like many of us, my introduction to hamsters happened when I was very young. My family saw several hamsters come and go through the years, and I enjoyed playing with them, but I never fully appreciated them until I grew up and my own children decided to jump on the hamster bandwagon. At that point, I was determined to learn all I could about caring for these adorable pets. Read more