Keeping raccoon dogs as pets

On this page, we answer all your questions about raccoon dogs - what they are, what they eat and whether they can be kept as pets.

Are raccoon dogs legal in the UK?

Since 2 February 2019, it's been illegal to sell raccoon dogs (except for existing 'stock'), as they're a highly invasive risk to native species in Europe. These regulations also don't allow breeding, and require raccoon dogs to be kept securely. Read more about the legal restrictions for keeping raccoon dogs and other invasive alien species.

Is a raccoon dog a dog or a raccoon?

Raccoon dogs (also known as a 'tanuki' or a Japanese raccoon dog) aren't raccoons - they're members of the canid (dog) family. They're native to the forests of eastern Siberia, northern China, North Vietnam, Korea and Japan, and are now widespread in some European countries, having been accidentally released or escaped.

What do raccoon dogs eat?

Raccoon dogs are omnivores and naturally feed on insects, rodents, amphibians, birds, fish, molluscs and carrion, as well as fruits, nuts and berries.

Should I have a raccoon dog as a pet?

A raccoon dog isn't suitable as pet as their needs simply can't be met in a typical household. We strongly discourage people from buying or keeping one as a pet.  

This is because:

  • They're much more difficult to look after than you may imagine! 
  • There are strict legal restrictions on keeping, selling, rehoming and breeding raccoon dogs, as they threaten our native wildlife.
  • They need space - raccoon dogs are wild animals rather than domesticated pets. In the wild, they have large home ranges, so it wouldn't be suitable to keep one in an enclosure that doesn't provide the space and complexity of environment (water, hiding places, vegetation) they need.
  • They're extremely smelly, as they use scent to communicate with one another - not the best quality in a house pet!

Sadly, it's not uncommon to see raccoon dogs kept in a house, a small enclosure in a garden or a small enclosure in a pet shop. These are all environments that are totally unsuitable for a raccoon dog's complex needs.

Rescued raccoon dogs

Our inspectors have taken in raccoon dogs that were no longer wanted as pets by their owners. This can be the result of the raccoon dog becoming unmanageable, or when owners realise that they cannot care for the animal properly.

We've attended properties where raccoon dogs have been kept in enclosures that are far too small, or where raccoon dogs are kept permanently on their own, or with the family dog - none of which is appropriate for this particular species.

Our team has also been called to capture and collect stray raccoon dogs that have escaped, or been deliberately released to the wild. Releasing, or allowing a raccoon dog to escape is a punishable offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

Studies have suggested that raccoon dogs in the wild may live and hunt in pairs or small family groups, although solitary animals have also been seen. We therefore ensure that we always rehome raccoon dogs to wildlife parks and zoos, in pairs or compatible groups.

If you've seen a raccoon dog that's been abandoned, or are concerned about the wellbeing of a raccoon dog being kept as a pet, please contact us.

Looking for a more suitable pet? Why not check out our animals in need of a loving new home!

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