I started watching Tiger King on Netflix and I am OBSESSED. Without giving away too much, it is one of those shows where you think "oh wow so this is the crazy twist" and then BAM! Something even more insane happens. My face was in a state of shock for two episodes straight. My jaw was dang near on the floor.

The docu-series follows big cat owners and zoo keepers and shows the feuds and friendships between them. It also touches on people owning big cats as pets. It is said in the documentary that for $2000 and a call to the right person, people could own their own tiger cub, and it made me wonder if that is a possibility in Minnesota.

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In a 2011 article by WCCO, it was written that subsequent to 2005, Minnesota regulates registration and inspection of exotic ownership. There is also a statute in Minnesota that states:

Except as provided in this section, it is unlawful for a person to possess a regulated animal. A person must not take possession of a regulated animal after January 1, 2005. A person must not allow regulated animals in their possession to breed after January 1, 2005.

Exemptions to this rule include:

  • Institutions accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association
  • Wildlife sanctuaries
  • Fur-bearing animals, as defined in section 97A.015, possessed by a game farm that is licensed or bears possessed by a game farm that is licensed.
  • The DNR
  • A licensed or accredited research or medical institution
  • A United States Department of Agriculture licensed exhibitor of regulated animals while transporting or as part of a circus, carnival, rodeo, or fair.

In Minnesota, it’s illegal to possess any wild cat, bear or primate (so no lions, tigers, cougars, bears, or monkeys), but it is still legal to buy them. It's sort of like the fireworks law.

A lot of times keeping exotic animals and big cats as pets doesn't end well. We saw evidence of this in Central Minnesota in 2005 when a 10-year-old boy was mauled by a privately owned lion outside of Royalton.

All these rules and regulations don't stop people from buying and selling exotic pets. Tiger King on Netflix makes that very obvious. I think all we can hope for is that the owners that want to break the rules aren't putting anyone else in danger, and law enforcement does what they can to try to uphold the laws.

(Warning: video has swearing)

WCCO Good Questions article