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why are hamsters banned in Hawaii?
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Why Are Hamsters Illegal in Hawaii? Why Pets Are Banned!

Last Updated on: 24th September 2023, 03:47 pm

While hamsters are common pets in many countries, they’re illegal in the U.S. state of Hawaii.

If caught with one, the hamster will be removed from your care and destroyed. You may also receive a fine or a prison sentence if you continuously break the law.

Hamsters are illegal in Hawaii because they harm native plants and wildlife, throwing the ecosystem out of sync by eating insects and becoming food for predators.

Hawaii provides favorable environmental conditions for hamsters to breed and multiply should they ever escape or be abandoned by their owners.

The law regarding hamsters and other restricted animals is unlikely to change in Hawaii. The state is home to an abundance of endangered plants and wildlife vulnerable to invasive non-native species.

Why Are Hamsters Banned in Hawaii?

Hamsters are popular pets that lead solitary lives, so it’s hard to imagine these seemingly harmless animals are banned in certain parts of the world.

However, while they make nice pets, they’re considered invasive in Hawaii.

As mentioned, many endangered plants and wildlife live in Hawaii. Non-native species can cause untold environmental damage if left unchecked and uncontrolled. Specifically, hamsters and other non-native species damage crops and threaten native plants and wildlife. 

Also, according to The Humane Society of the United States, the Hawaiian climate is similar to the desert habitat where hamsters originate.

So, agricultural and environmental officials are concerned that if hamsters were to escape or get released by irresponsible owners, they would thrive within the environment and establish large wild colonies.

Hamsters breed quickly, as procreation is vital to their survival as prey animals. Just two hamsters could produce enough pups to overrun the ecosystem and cause significant damage.

Moreover, introducing hamsters into the environment would provide more than enough food for Hawaii’s predators, causing them to over-hunt and decimate local prey populations.

Therefore, importing, owning, and selling all hamster species is banned to protect the landscape. If you’re caught in possession of a hamster, you may receive the following penalties:

  • A fine of $500 to $10,000. You’ll also need to pay for its removal, storage, and care or destruction.
  • A 6-month jail sentence and a fine of up to $1,000.

Most hamsters are removed and destroyed due to the environmental risk, and there’s little chance of them being rehomed elsewhere.

What Law Bans Hamsters in Hawaii?

Hamsters are banned under Chapter 4-71, Hawaii Administrative Rules called “Plant and Non-Domestic Animal Quarantine, Non-Domestic Animal Import Rule.”

The law states that rodents in the Cricetidae family are banned along with many other mammals and amphibians. Advances in Cancer Research confirm that hamsters are part of the Cricetidae family, making them illegal in Hawaii. 

Some rodent species are permitted for scientific research with a valid permit. Such species include:

  • Hamsters.
  • Gerbils.
  • Chinese mice.
  • Cotton rats.

However, this is strictly for research, as hamsters can’t be kept as pets.

pet laws in Hawaii

While California, another state with strict pet laws, has slightly relaxed its stance on what hamster species are allowed into the state, it’s unlikely Hawaii would ever do the same.

Hawaii boasts a rich yet finely balanced ecosystem that snakes, various cat breeds, and other predatory animals already threaten. The risk is too significant to allow non-native animals into the country, so pet laws in Hawaii are among the strictest in the world.

Hawaii is more focused on tightening its animal laws, not relaxing them.

For example, Hawaii banned the importation of wild animals, including lions and bears, from being used in circuses, carnivals, and public exhibitions in 2018.

It’s not only hamsters and animals that are illegal in Hawaii, as many plants and soil varieties are also banned. This means you must be careful with what you bring into the country, even if you unknowingly import them illegally.

Hamsters and most rodents may be banned, but there are exceptions to the rule. Wild animals mustn’t enter the country, but a small handful of certain domesticated species are permitted, such as:


Domesticated rats are permitted as pets in Hawaii.

You can purchase them in pet stores across the island relatively easily. That said, rats have a negative stigma across Hawaii due to the damage they cause to crops and plants.

However, if you import rats into Hawaii, you must prove that they don’t have rabies. Hawaii is currently rabies-free, and officials have implemented strict measures to ensure it stays that way.

Your rats will be quarantined for four months if you don’t have the relevant documentation. Considering rats have short life spans of up to two years, this is a significant time.


Domesticated mice are assessed the same way as rats because they’re permitted as pets. Like rats, you can find domesticated mice to purchase in pet stores across Hawaii.

Mice are popular pets because they’re friendly and playful. They also prefer to live in small groups, requiring space to roam and be free.


Chinchillas are legal pets in Hawaii. They’re related to guinea pigs and come from the Andes mountains in northern Chile. Chinchillas make good pets as they’re easy to care for and keep themselves clean.

However, they live anywhere between 10-20 years in captivity.

Guinea Pigs

Not only can guinea pigs be bought and sold in Hawaii, but they can be imported.

As with all permitted creatures, you need to demonstrate that your guinea pigs don’t have rabies before they’re allowed to enter the state.

You must also have a permit to bring your guinea pigs into Hawaii. If you don’t have one, they’ll be deemed illegal, and officials will remove them.

Hawaii hamster laws are some of the strictest in the world to protect the native fauna, flora, and wildlife.

Hawaii has dealt with troublesome pests in the past, so banning hamsters and certain other rodents is their way of preventing non-native pest populations from destroying the ecosystem.

There’s no way to legally own a hamster in Hawaii, so it’s not worth the risk of getting caught.