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Judge to decide if exotic-animal law

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Posted by: EricWI at Thu Dec 13 18:00:09 2012  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by EricWI ]  
   

Judge to decide if exotic-animal law is unfair

Ohio’s new exotic-animal ownership law came from a “Frankenstein-like bill” created by special interests with “no care given to the rights of owners,” the attorney for owners argued in federal court yesterday.

Robert M. Owens said in closing statements that the law and the rules set up to enforce it are unconstitutional because they provide only “false options” for owners that are “so onerous there’s going to be no way” they can keep their animals.

Owens represents four animal owners who sued the Ohio Department of Agriculture in November, saying that the law is unconstitutional. The civil hearing started on Monday in Columbus, and U.S. District Judge George C. Smith is expected to issue a ruling before Christmas.

James Patterson, the attorney for the Agriculture Department, argued that the law “clearly has been done in a constitutional manner” by the legislature, which has a legal right to create public policy and to look out for the general welfare of citizens.

“It’s not unconstitutional to regulate” the private ownership of exotic animals, he said.

The law was enacted after Terry W. Thompson, who lived near Zanesville, released dozens of his wild animals in October 2011 and then killed himself. Muskingum County deputy sheriffs killed 48 of the animals, including lions, tigers and bears, to protect the public.

The last witness in the case was John Moore, Thompson’s animal caretaker. Owens had him detail what he saw on Thompson’s farm the night the animals were released.

Moore testified that he drove to the farmhouse with a deputy and saw several lions, tigers and bears lounging along the property, some in front of their cages and some still inside cages. He said he helped the deputy search the house for Thompson and then secured one lioness in her cage before he saw Thompson’s body lying on the ground in the distance.

“Then a truckload of deputies came in with rifles,” Moore said. He said three approached the cage with the lioness he had locked up and shot it, execution style.

He said he then left the area and helped deputies compile a list of Thompson’s animals. Eventually, he said, he told Muskingum Sheriff Matt Lutz about the lioness’ shooting.

Moore testified that at least five of Thompson’s animals had been shot in their cages and that none of the animals he saw was exhibiting hostile behavior.

Lutz said in a phone interview after the hearing that Moore’s statement about deputies shooting a lioness in a cage “has no merit whatsoever” and that Moore “never told me any such thing.”

He said Moore was helping deputies with the animal list at a command post when the deputies began shooting animals.

“I don’t feel Mr. Moore could have witnessed a whole lot from the vantage point he had,” Lutz said.
www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/12/13/judge-to-decide-if-exotic-animal-law-is-unfair.html


   

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