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The Restriction of Hedgehog Breeding

The hedgehog is an adorable little creature that has gained popularity as a pet in the last twenty years. The most common hedgehog found as a pet in the United States is the African Pygmy, though its cousin the European hedgehog has also gained interest. As cute as they are, this animal comes with some complications that have made it illegal in some states, while other states have restrictions for owning or breeding this animal. What are these complications, and how can hedgehog owners be sure their pet is healthy and well looked-after?

Picture: Mad About Pets' beloved hedgie Laika
There are a few states where owning a hedgehog is illegal. These include California, Hawaii, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York City, and all of Douglass County in Nebraska. Arizona makes it so hard to meet requirements that you practically have to have PhDs in animal care to afford one, and Maine is working out legislature to restrict them as well. Reasons for these restrictions vary wildly by state.

The first reason hedgehogs are restricted is because they are a non-native species. If enough escapes, they could displace the native species in the area and disrupt food chains. States that have unique environments, like Hawaii, are particularly susceptible to damage from non-native species, and will often ban exotic pets. The African Pygmy hedgehog is originally from Africa, which means that it falls into this category.

Another reason is because of the diseases that they can carry. Most hedgehogs are totally healthy, but they have been linked to several diseases over the years, including salmonella, foot-and-mouth disease, rabies, yersina, pseudotuberculosis, mycobacterium marinum and even hemorrhagic fever. Some of these diseases are able to cross the lines between species and cause disease in livestock or even humans. Infants and young children are most at risk, so hedgehogs are not good pets to have around the very young. Because of these viruses, hedgehog breeders are closely regulated to be sure that the animals they sell aren't carriers. That's why it's so important to get your hedgie from a licensed breeder, who can prove that they're healthy.

Hedgehogs are adorable, but high-maintenance pets
Photo credit: World's Most Amazing Things
Hedgehogs also have a lot of very specific environmental things they need. For example, their diets can be quite complicated, they need open cages but without wire bottoms, and lots of exercise—but only on closed wheels with at least 11” diameters. Plus, hedgehogs are designed for a warm climate, and must be kept in a room that is between 70F and 76F. If they get too cold, they will try to hibernate, which can easily kill an African pygmy because they are not designed for it. Getting too hot is just as bad, however, because they can easily overheat and die of dehydration in as little as 80F.

Because of all these special needs, hedgehog breeders are subject to much scrutiny, and it is very hard to get licensed to sell them. This is why it is so important to make sure that your breeder is licensed, and has made allowances for all of these things when breeding your hedgie! Plus, you have to make sure that you have built an environment that your hedgehog can happily survive in, but can't escape. They're wonderful pets, but they can be a lot of work, so it's important to do all of your research before buying one!

About the author: Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

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