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THURBER: Who knew exotic animals could c

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Posted by: EricWI at Tue Sep 11 20:30:54 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by EricWI ]  
   

So far, we’ve incurred $4 million in costs to Ohio taxpayers in reaction to an isolated event by a troubled man.

THURBER: Who knew exotic animals could cost OH taxpayers so much?

By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog

Maggie Thurber

In October, Zanesville resident Terry Thompson released dozens of tigers, lions, bears and other animals from his private zoo before committing suicide.

With wild animals on the loose, law enforcement officials did what they needed to do to protect the public and ended up killing most of them. Captured animals were quarantined at the Columbus Zoo before being returned to Thompson’s widow.

But that wasn’t the end of the issue. Legislators decided they had to do something, so they began the process of updating Ohio laws and regulations regarding exotic animals in the state.

Seven months later, after hearings, testimony and compromise, the General Assembly passed revisions that regulate permits and licensing fees along with confinement rules for various animals, such as bears, big cats and primates. It also prohibited future acquisition of new animals.

There were exceptions for zoos, research facilities, circuses and sanctuaries and for operations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Zoological Association of America and Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries. There were also exceptions for service animal training.

Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the bill into law in June, ending the “wild, wild west” atmosphere that supposedly had existed in the state.

Interestingly, if the potential costs of the new law were discussed as part of the deliberations, they weren’t reported.

As part of the mid-biennium review budget bill, the Ohio Department of Agriculture received $500,000 to start implementing the law. Licensing and permit fees are supposed to fund the regulation process, but during committee hearings, ODA Director David Daniels questioned whether the fees would be enough to support ODA responsibilities under the law.

Monday, the Controlling Board, which provides “oversight over certain capital and operating expenditures by state agencies,” approved $3.5 million to build a facility near Columbus for exotic animals. You see, when owners aren’t in compliance with the new law, the animals will be seized, and the state obviously needs a place to put those seized animals.

Regardless of whether any animals are actually there, it still must be staffed and maintained because who knows when an inspector may have to remove exotic animals from an owner.

So now the state is going to build a new, gated facility, roughly 22,000 to 30,000 square feet, capable of temporarily housing up 60 caged animals at a time at an estimated cost of $3.5 million.

Daniels told the board he wasn’t sure how much continuing costs of the new facility would be, but he did “guesstimate” $500,000 to $600,000 yearly to maintain the building — even without any animals.

Oh — and they want to waive competitive bidding, so they can get started with the construction right away, before winter sets in.

So far, we’ve incurred $4 million in costs to Ohio taxpayers in reaction to an isolated event by a troubled man.

And the worst part about this is best demonstrated by comments made by state Rep. Terry Boose, R-Norwalk, when he voted against the bill.

He said it “gives a false sense of security” because even with all the new provisions, requirements, licensing and permits, “someone could still have all those exotic animals and could still release them.”
watchdog.org/55892/thurber-who-knew-exotic-animals-could-cost-oh-taxpayers-so-much/


   

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