Update May 26, 2012: A revised S.B. 310, a bill to regulate ownership of dangerous exotic animals has now passed both the Ohio Senate and House of Representatives. The bill has been sent to Gov. John Kasich who is expected to sign it. Here is a summary of the bill’s provisions.
Update March 19, 2012: A new bill to regulate ownership of dangerous exotic animals has been introduced in the Ohio Senate, S.B. 310 by state Sen. Troy Balderson. The bill would allow Ohioans to continue to own dangerous exotic animals as long as they obtain a permit by 2014. Until that time owners of these animals must register them with the Department of Agriculture. Then before January 1, 2014, they must obtain a wildlife shelter or propagation permit. A separate permit is required for certain snakes. The bill provides for standards for keeping, handling, transporting and caring for these animals though there are a number of exemptions. The Department would have authority to inspect and suspend or revoke permits of those found in violations and also issue quarantine, seizure or transfer orders. There is a scheme for imposing civil penalties as well.
The bill prohibits auctions of dangerous wild animals or venomous snakes.
The bill creates an advisory board and also requires the Department to maintain a database of persons who have registrations or permits to keep these animals. Go here for a detailed summary of this bill.
For more on a House of Representatives bill that remains pending and the history behind why these bills have been introduced, read Animal Law Coalition’s report below.
Update January 19, 2012: Ohio state Rep. Debbie Phillips introduced a bill, H.B. 352, that would basically prohibit Ohioans from acquiring any dangerous exotic animal after the bill is signed into law. Those who already have dangerous exotic animals would be required to register but would not be able to obtain a registration if the person has been convicted of animal abuse or neglect under any federal, state or local law or has had a permit or license for the care, possession, exhibition, breeding, or sale of animals suspended or revoked by any agency. The division of wildlife would be responsible for administration and enforcement and must at a minimum require these animals to be micro-chipped. There are a number of exceptions.
After the terrible tragedy last year as described in Animal Law Coalition’s report below, you would think this bill would be a no-brainer. But no. Rep. Debbie Phillips is circulalting an email, claiming the Ohio House of Representatives leadership is stalling her bill, despite wide public support. The Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee where the bill is currently pending has refused, says Rep. Phillips, to hold a hearing on the bill.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Find committee members here. (Just click on their names for contact info.) Rep. Dave Hall is the Chair. Here is the House of Representatives leadership.(Again, just click on their names to find contact info.) Find your own Ohio state represenative here. (Just fill in the info in the upper right of the page.) Write (faxes or letters are best) or call committee members, the House leadership and your own rep and urge them to hold a hearing on H.B. 352 and support this important legislation. You can also just call the Capitol at 800-282-0253 and ask for these reps and leave them a message. BE POLITE.
Original report 10/21/11: Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed an Executive Order as what he says is the first step in addressing the issue of Ohioans owning wild animals. The Order was issued in response to the tragedy and fear that resulted this past week when Terry Thompson, owner of Muskingum County Animal Farm near Zanesville, Ohio, let nearly 50 wild animals loose and then killed himself.
Local sheriff’s deputies did not bother to arrange to try to trap or shoot the animals with tranquilizers and save them. Instead, they simply shot and killed 49 animals, leaving only six who were spared only because conservationists with tranquilizers arrived on the scene.
The tragedy in Ohio brings home the need for a state law that prohibits people from keeping wild animals. Wild animals are not pets. They are not for show or exhibition; they are not an accessory. Wild animals belong in the wild.
An order signed by the previous Governor Gov. Ted Strickland was to have resulted in a regulation that would ban private ownership of wild dangerous animals. Gov. Kasich allowed that order to lapse on March 6, 2011.
The new Order contains tough talk, promising a toll free hotline and website for public complaints and reports regarding dangerous wild animals. Local health departments are also to accept such reports and complaints. The Department of Agriculture is directed to enter into agreements with livestock dealers, auctioneers and auction firms for a "temporary moratorium" on the sale of any wild dangerous animals" in Ohio.
Gov. Kasich’s order indicates he expects legislation for the importation, regulation, and licensure of dangerous wild animals to be proposed by November 30, 2011.
Also, state agencies are to conduct an "investigation and inquiry" into every place where dangerous wild animals are kept. These agencies are to work with local agencies as well as humane societies, veterinarians, "sportsmen" and "conservation groups" to identify such places. The state agencies are to work with local agencies including by staffing humane societies to enforce laws for the prevention of cruelty to animals as well as those to protect people. The premises of breeders of "potentially dangerous wild" animals native to Ohio are to be inspected and the conditions documented.
State agencies are also directed to identify safe places to put impounded or confiscated wild animals.
Ohio currently does not regulate the private ownership of wild animals. The governor expressed concern about his authority to regulate nonnative wild animals via executive order or regulation.