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OH Exotic-animal rules debated in secret

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Posted by: EricWI at Fri Sep 23 10:11:35 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by EricWI ]  

Exotic-animal rules debated in secret

Ohio has no rules regulating the sale and ownership of exotic animals six months after Gov. John Kasich allowed a ban enacted by his predecessor to expire.

The executive order that Gov. Ted Strickland signed before leaving office early this year wouldn’t have made a difference in the case of an elderly man seriously injured on Wednesday by a kangaroo at an exotic-animal farm in rural Marion County.

Strickland’s order didn’t cover kangaroos.

However, new rules governing a wide range of exotic animals and reptiles are being discussed by an eclectic group in closed-door meetings convened by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The group includes representatives of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Humane Society of the U.S., Knox County prosecutor’s office, Ohio Association of Animal Owners, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and Zoo Association of America.

Natural Resources spokeswoman Laura Jones said the goal is to come up with proposed legislation on exotic animals for submission to the General Assembly later this year.

“The governor felt the best way to pull together a product to ensure all the voices were heard was through this work group,” Jones said.

In the latest incident involving an exotic animal in Ohio, an 80-year-old man was taken by ambulance to a Columbus hospital on Wednesday after being seriously injured at Kokas Exotics, an animal farm in the village of Green Camp in Marion County. The man reportedly was injured by a 6-foot-tall, 200-pound male kangaroo.

No police report of the incident was taken; no other details were available.

In August 2010, 24-year-old Brent Kandra was mauled to death by a bear at a private owner’s wild-animal menagerie near Lorain. Kandra, a caretaker, was killed when he took the bear out of its cage at feeding time.

Born Free USA, a group that tracks exotic-animal escapes and incidents in the U.S., said Ohio has had 84 incidents since 1993, the fifth-most. Florida is first with 201.

Kandra’s death provided added incentive for the Humane Society to push for an exotic-animals ban to be included as part of a deal with the state and other groups regarding care standards for farm livestock. The livestock-care rules take effect on Thursday.

Strickland signed off on the overall deal and issued an executive order barring the buying or selling of big cats, bears, wolves, primates, crocodiles and large constricting and venomous snakes. His order would have required owners to register their animals with the state by May 1.

Kasich allowed the 90-day order to lapse, largely because of concerns about the legal authority.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the U.S., said the rules should be expedited. “Every day we don’t have a policy on the books, more people and animals are at risk.”

Ohio is one of only a handful of states with no regulations on exotic animals. The state Department of Natural Resources regulates only Ohio-native species: bobcats, coyotes, black bears, rattlesnakes and copperhead snakes.

The Kasich administration closed the working group’s meetings to the public and urged group members not to discuss the proceedings with the news media. However, public meetings will be held in the future, Jones said.

In meeting minutes posted on the state agency’s website, the group has focused on regulations to protect public health and safety, avoiding “negatively impacting sportsmen and the programs they support through the purchase of licenses and permits,” identifying species that are covered, and ensuring that law-enforcement agencies are clear about their responsibilities.


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