Cassie Lang has a very special pet at the end of Ant-Man: An ant that is larger than a Rough Collie. Would she be legally able to have such an exotic pet in San Francisco?
The state of California and cities have very specific rules on the kinds of animals that can be pets. California prohibits a long list of animals from being imported, possessed, or released live in the state without a revocable, nontransferable permit, including any animal from Manatees to all species of Crocodilidae. Cal Fish & G Code § 2118. This list does not include any inspects.
The City and County of San Francisco prohibit animal owners from letting animals run at large around the city, other than domestic cats. San Francisco Health Code section 41.12. It is illegal to sell wild or dangerous animals in San Francisco, which are defined as animals that are “wild by nature and not customarily domesticated in the City and County of San Francisco and which, because of its size…that could constitute a danger to human life.” San Francisco Health Code section 51. These animals include wolves, jaguar, elephant, orangutan, Gila monster, and others, to name a few. Id. Moreover, wild animals must have a permit, or be taken by animal control up to 14 days before being sold or destroyed. San Francisco Health Code section 65.
San Francisco’s laws do not specifically address insects. By way of comparison, Alameda pet restrictions include insects. Alameda, California Code of Ordinances Sec. 7-9.6.
Pet ordinances are not designed for insects to be artificially enlarged. The City and County of San Francisco would likely require a license for a giant ant based on its “size” as a wild animal that could pose a danger to a person.
There is not a rich body of law for “ant farm” liability. At common law, an owner of a wild animal is absolutely liable for any injuries caused by that animal. By way of comparison, owners of domesticated such as dogs or cats are not subject to liability under common law unless the owner knew the animal was abnormally dangerous. Drake v. Dean (1993) 15 Cal.App.4th 915, 935. However, California statute states that dog owners are liable for damages if a dog bites someone if the victim is in a place where they can lawfully be, regardless of knowledge of whether or not the dog is vicious. Cal Civ Code § 3342.
Would the same be true of a giant pet ant? Most likely yes, given the exotic nature of the pet and an active plaintiff’s bar if the ant bites anyone. Moreover, ants can lift 1000% their weight. As such, “Antie” should be able to overturn cars, rip doors off hinges, and cause general mayhem on a rampage. However, it seems highly unlikely Cassie would employ her pet ant to terrorize first graders. That being said, it is a good thing Cassie has a police officer as a soon-to-be step-father to help with the permitting process.