Raccoon dogs as pets

Is a raccoon dog a dog or a raccoon?

Raccoon dogs aren't raccoons, instead, 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 having 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 (also known as a 'tanuki' or a Japanese raccoon dog) is not suited to life as a pet in a domestic environment and we strongly discourage people from buying or keeping one as a pet - they're much more difficult to look after properly than some people may realise!  There are also strict legal restrictions on keeping, selling, rehoming and breeding raccoon dogs as they threaten our native wildlife.

Raccoon dogs are wild animals - rather than domesticated pets. They need a great deal of space and their needs simply cannot be met in a typical household. They're also extremely smelly, as they use scent to communicate with one another (not the best quality in a house pet!).

In the wild, raccoon dogs have large home ranges and so it would be unsuitable to keep this particular animal in an enclosure that doesn't provide the space and complexity of environment (water, hiding places, vegetation) they require to carry out their normal behaviour. Sadly, it's not uncommon to see 'pet' raccoon dogs kept in a house, in a small enclosure in a garden or in a small enclosure in a pet shop. All environments that are totally unsuitable for a raccoon dog's complex needs.

Rescued raccoon dogs

Our inspectors have taken in 'pet' raccoon dogs that were no longer wanted 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 which are far too small, or where raccoon dogs are kept permanently on their own, or with the family dog, neither of which is appropriate for this particular species.

Our team has also been called to capture and collect stray 'pet' raccoon dogs that have escaped, or been deliberately released to the wild. Doing so (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. Therefore, we ensure that we always rehome raccoon dogs to wildlife parks and zoos, in pairs or compatible groups.

Are raccoon dogs legal in the UK?

Since February 2019, it's illegal to sell raccoon dogs from 2 February 2019 (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.

If you've seen a raccoon dog that's been abandoned, or are concerned about the well-being of a raccoon dog being kept as a pet, please contact our national cruelty line.

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