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Draft law limits exotic-animal owners

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Posted by: Ravenspirit at Sat Oct 22 05:58:22 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by Ravenspirit ]  

("Constricting Snakes" & Crocodilians are included)

A draft exotic-animals law for Ohio would restrict ownership of several species, require owners to carry $250,000 of liability insurance and implant electronic monitoring devices in animals to track them if they escape.

The preliminary proposal from a working group established several months ago by Gov. John Kasich came yesterday as an animal- rescue veteran delivered chilling news about exotic animals in Ohio: There are more out there than you think.

Tim Harrison, a former Oakwood, Ohio, police officer, firefighter and paramedic who runs Outreach for Animals, said law- enforcement officials he spoke with know of at least 20 people around the state who each own 20 or more unlicensed exotic animals.

“We’ve got houses full of pythons,” he said

“These are just the ones we know about. They are just popping up now ... Other individuals will go unknown until there’s a house fire or something like that.”

Harrison, who worked 28 years in the Dayton suburb, teamed with the Humane Society of the U.S. in urging Kasich to issue an emergency order banning private ownership of exotic animals before another incident occurs such as the one this week in Zanesville.

Also yesterday, a state lawmaker announced she will introduce legislation to ban private ownership of wild animals, and an Ohio University student started an online petition drive that garnered more than 68,000 signatures in less than 48 hours, in the process clogging the emails of some state officials.

The working group’s rough draft envisions a law to take effect Jan. 1, 2014, to control private ownership of “restricted species,” including bears, chimpanzees, gorillas, leopards, lions, mountain lions, orangutans, alligators, crocodiles and constricting snakes. Each animal would have to be implanted with a “passive integrated transponder” or microchip and be housed in “ non-escapable cages.” The program would be administered by the Department of Natural Resources.

Agency spokeswoman Laura Jones emphasized that the draft document, obtained by The Dispatch via a public-records request, is very preliminary and represents “neither the (Kasich) administration’s nor the department’s position or final views concerning proposed language dealing with potential restricted animal species.” She described it as a “distillation of the work group’s efforts” that “will no doubt change with further review.”

Owners with permits would be required to maintain extensive records on the animals they own and to report escapes to authorities within one hour.

Possession of restricted animals would be a first-degree misdemeanor, but buying, bartering or selling animals would be a first-degree misdemeanor on the first offense and fifth-degree felony for subsequent offenses.

In the wake of Tuesday’s suicide of wild-animal owner Terry W. Thompson of Zanesville — after he released 56 bears, lions, monkeys, tigers and other animals, most of which had to be killed — the Kasich administration hastened the work of the task force.

Laws in other states, notably California and Washington, are models Ohio should follow in crafting legislation, officials of the Humane Society and Born Free America said. California has restricted ownership of wild animals since 1992. Washington law establishes fines of up to $2,000 per animal per day for violations.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society, said Ohio is one of just seven states that have no laws on the books regulating possession and sale of wild animals like those owned by Thompson. There are 18 states, plus the District of Columbia, that ban the sale and possession of exotic animals.

Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, said because of the near-total lack of regulation, Ohio has one of the highest rates of incidents involving wild animals in the country.

The incident with Thompson’s animals “could have been prevented,” Roberts said. “There hasn’t been much of a push to amend the law. That makes it even worse that Ohio was in the spotlight and did nothing about it.”

Meanwhile, state Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens, announced she will introduce legislation to ban private ownership of wild animals.

Phillips said her bill would mirror an executive order issued by former Gov. Ted Strickland in January. Kasich allowed the order to expire in the spring.

Phillips’ bill, which will include an emergency clause so it would take effect immediately if passed and signed by the governor, would permit existing owners of exotic animals with federal licenses to keep their animals. However, they would have to register them with the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.

The online petition started by Liz Dumler, 22, of Athens, is linked through an organization called Each time someone signs the petition, an email goes to Kasich’s office and the Department of Natural Resources.

Dumler, a biology major, said she began the electronic effort early Wednesday after reading and watching news reports about the animals being killed by law enforcement to protect the public.

“I don’t blame the law-enforcement officers. The real blame was the lack of laws and regulations,” she said.

The link to Dumler’s petition is:

For Harrison, who retired as a police officer last year, Wednesday was a sad day as he traveled to Muskingum County and talked with law-enforcement officers who had to shoot lions, tigers and other animals.

“It was the most bizarre and heart-rending situation I’ve seen in 38 years. They (law enforcement) didn’t want to do this. They had tears in their eyes. It was just a sad situation to see these animals just lined up that never should have been there in the first place.”


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