Here is a bit of our history:
Prior to breeding in summer of '96, I contacted our Game Commission and
was advised that hedgehogs were legal to own and sell in PA, but illegal
to import into the state. I was also advised that there were no
permits nor licenses required. I repeatedly called PGC over the
years and checked on the internet for any regulation changes.
A breeder friend of mine was served with a search warrant and was
advised she would be given citations for breeding and selling hedgehogs.
She was told she "didn't have the right permits or licenses" although
we'd only been advised that we needed a USDA Exotic Breeder license
which we both have. The following day, I went to our State
Representative's office. Karen in Rep. Raymond's office was
repeatedly advised by Cheryl Fleet at PGC in Harrisburg that no permits
were required by hedgehog breeders if we weren't importing. I went
home, called and was given the same information.
I attempted numerous times that week to get answers by calling and was
finally told that "the law changed" and that Officer Overhostler
would have to call me back. Despite repeated calls to their
office, he would not call me back. I sent faxes and followed up
with calls to be sure the faxes were received by their office.
They never replied to faxes or returned my calls.
PGC officers came to our house with a search warrant to inspect the
animals and seize our paperwork. We were advised to not allow any
animals to come or go until we heard from them again.
Our paperwork was returned. I was advised that we could only sell
to non-PA residents at this time. They are researching whether we and
hedgehog pet owners in PA have broken laws pertaining to owning or
selling captive bred wildlife. They feel that since hedgehogs are
not native to PA, any offspring hedgehogs in PA are now considered
"offspring of initially illegally imported hedgehogs." This,
despite that hedgehogs have been in PA for 15 years and that I was told
previously that any already here were "grandfathered in".
We expected to hear within a month or so as to whether there is a legal
way for us to continue to breed and sell hedgehogs and if there will be
a legal way for PA residents to have pet hedgehogs. Meanwhile, I
was told we could only sell to non-PA residents. I was told I
would be advised of "any citations and violations within 30 days."
PGC came to our home at 8:50pm and informed my husband (I was out with
the kids) that we had to get all of our hedgehogs out of PA by 12/1/01
and that we would receive 2-3 citations in the mail in a week or two.
This was again confirmed 11/9/01 on the telephone and we were given an
extension until 1/1/02.
Three weeks after my last contact from PGC, we received five citations
in the mail. By this time, we had approximately 30 hedgehogs
either already out of PA or placed, but not transported yet. We
were down to seven hedgehogs not placed, but still had a month to comply
with the 1/1/02 deadline.
All five citations state "The defendant did unlawfully possess a
hedgehog that was held in captivity or captive bred in another state or
I asked what specific animals did the citations refer to as we had done
one importation of hedgehogs in January, 2001. Each of those
hedgehogs were sold to non-Pennsylvanians within a few weeks.
However, they were also advising me that our hedgehogs, obtained in PA,
were illegal. I was told the citations are for the imported
hedgehogs in 1/01. I was also advised on the telephone that if I
cooperated and pled guilty, they would knock us down to four citations,
but if I would "choose my right to a hearing" I would be cited on more
violations. I was also told that if I "or anyone (I) have been
dealing with go to court, (PGC) will go after the pet owners.
Threatening my right as an American citizen to have our day in court
went beyond what I could manage to tolerate. PGC uses lies and
threats (and blackmail?) to accomplish their goals... goals which
make little sense to exotic pet owners. I was advised that
PGC would call the following week and come by to "see our progress" at
getting the hedgehogs out. Again, we were down to seven hedgehogs
at that time.
I retained a lawyer. He advised me that we should keep the
remaining hedgehogs and let it be their legality be adjudicated at the
hearing. I and many others feel that PGC gets away with
questionable tactics and interpreting codes on whims (there have been at
five different answers on the legality of hedgehogs in the past 7
months) and they get away with it because they scare people from
challenging them. It's hoped that we can create some sanity and
get some answers. The hearing was set for 2/12/02.
PGC never called or stopped by. We assumed this was because they
were notified we were going to court.
PGC stopped by to see if we still had any hedgehogs. I showed them
the seven and explained that our lawyer had advised we could allow the
judge to make a decision at the hearing. The PGC officer advised
me I'd been "ill advised", that I would not be keeping them until the
hearing and that I would be hearing from him.
01/ 16-22 2002
We sent five of the hedgehogs out and the remaining two were to go in
the next few days.
While on a conference call in my home-based office, people were banging
on our front and back doors and police car lights were flashing in the
street in front of our home. PGC came with a seizure warrant.
When I asked if Sammy and Wonder would be euthanized or placed in a safe
place, I was advised it was "none of my business." My latest
paperwork was confiscated and I was advised that the hearing was
continued to 3/12/02.
I received 10 more citations identical to the first five. This was
my "slap on the hand" promised back in December if I dared to choose my
right to a hearing.
I do not know if Sammy and Wonder are alive nor if they have been placed
with people who know how to care for hedgehogs. We've heard
numerous rumors of confiscations from pet owners and pet owners being
told they have 10 days to get their hedgehog out of PA or be fined $100
per day. We don't know if these rumors are true, but there seem to
be a lot of these statements from the middle and western parts of the
state. There is a rumor that 57 hedgehogs were confiscated from a
breeder and euthanized, but that's been unconfirmed.
Over the past few months, people who have called PGC have told me
they've been advised "hedgehogs are illegal and always have been" or
"hedgehogs are illegal unless you can prove they or their ancestors were
in PA in 1992" or "hedgehogs cannot be sold within the state" or they
are "just going after the illegal breeding and selling." So no one
knows what is legal, what's not legal or why something that's been legal
for years is suddenly illegal retroactively. PGC seems to waver
about other exotics as well making animals like sugar gliders and other
Some important Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes are:
Title 58 - § 137.1.
Importation, sale and release of certain wildlife.
(10) Game or wildlife held in captivity or captive bred in another state
Title 34 - Chapter 21 - Subchapter D - - § 2163.
Unlawful importation of game or wildlife.
(a) General rule.--It is unlawful for any person to bring or, in any
manner, to have transported into this Commonwealth from any other state
or nation, any living game or wildlife or the eggs of any bird, the
importation of which is prohibited by the commission or under the
provisions of any Federal law, or to release within this Commonwealth
any game or wildlife reared in captivity or in a domestic state, the
importation of which is prohibited.
Title 34 - § 102. Definitions
"Wild animals" - All mammals other than domestic animals as defined in 1
Pa.C.S. 1991 (relating to definitions).
Title 1 - § 1991. Definitions.
"Domestic animal" - Any equine animal, bovine animal, sheep, goat and
Title 34 - Chapter 1 - § 322.
Powers and duties of commission.
(a) Duties.--It shall be the duty of the commission to protect,
propagate, manage and preserve the game and wildlife of this
Commonwealth and to enforce, by proper actions and proceedings, the laws
of this Commonwealth relating thereto.
(b) General powers and duties.--The commission has
the power and duty to take all actions necessary for the administration
and enforcement of this title.
(c) Specific powers and duties.--In order to administrate and enforce
this title, the commission through proper action shall:
(one of the provisions listed) "Add to or change the classification of
any wild bird or wild animal."
If you can figure out from our statutes what animals in this state
are considered 'legal', you're doing better than I am. Are
hamster, guinea pigs and other assorted "common" pets legal in PA?