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OH: Bill would ban new ownership of exot

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Posted by: EricWI at Thu Mar 8 10:51:15 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by EricWI ]  

OH: Bill would ban new ownership of exotic animals in Ohio

New ownership of exotic animals would be banned and those who want to keep the bears, big cats and pythons already in their possession will have to meet strict regulations under a new bill designed to avoid the type of dangerous animal incident in Zanesville last year.

“We have nothing in place right now in Ohio, and this bill is a nice starting point,” said Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, who will introduce his bill Thursday after weeks of drafting and redrafting.

“It’s fair, and I wanted to make it as fair as possible. There is much more good out there than there is bad.”

Balderson lives about 7 miles from the area where law-enforcement officers killed 48 animals, including bears, lions, tigers and wolves, that had been set free by their owner on Oct. 18. Terry W. Thompson committed suicide after releasing the animals. Six surviving animals were placed into quarantine at the Columbus Zoo, although one, a leopard, has since been euthanized after it was crushed by a gate.

With an international spotlight on Ohio, a state-appointed committee representing government and animal-interest groups recommended in late November that Ohio ban ownership of exotic animals starting in 2014.

But Senate Republicans, including Balderson and President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, expressed immediate opposition to an outright ban, both on legal and philosophical grounds. Then a month ago, Balderson’s initial attempt to craft exotic animal regulations drew heavy criticism for not going far enough from Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Tom Stalf, chief operating officer at the zoo, said he supports the latest version of the bill as a way to prevent another Zanesville-type incident. He said Hanna shares that sentiment.

Under the bill coming Thursday, depending on the type of animal, the owner would be required to either get wildlife permits, insurance, microchipping, specific cage standards, and/or meet standards set by the Federal Animal Welfare Act or the Zoological Association of America. Exotic animal owners would have until 2014 to meet the new standards.

Gov. John Kasich, who after the Zanesville animal release backed a full ban on public ownership of exotic animals, supports the proposal, which is expected to get its first committee hearing on Tuesday.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the new standards will be similar to what is required for zoos.

“Those just aren’t standards that casual owners — where problems are most likely to arise — are going to be able to meet,” Nichols said. “It’s admittedly not everything we sought or that the working group recommended, but it’s most of it and such a huge improvement from where Ohio has been that the governor is comfortable moving forward.”

Balderson said he traveled around the state and looked at some of the facilities where people and licensed facilities were keeping wild and dangerous animals to understand what he was dealing with. He said there are good people who do it correctly.

Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Environment & Natural Resources Committee, said he expects to hear opposition to the bill.

“I don’t anticipate this going quickly,” he said. “I have a feeling a lot of people want to have their say, based on the mail we’ve received.”

State officials yesterday postponed a hearing over Ohio’s quarantine order for the five animals being kept at the Columbus Zoo. Thompson’s widow has demanded a previously requested appeal hearing and sought medical testing to prove the animals don’t need to be quarantined.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture says the March 12 hearing is rescheduled for April 23 because of personnel changes in the department, including a new director.


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