26 October 2011

New legislation to crack down on exotic animal ownership in Ohio

A panther is reportedly on the loose in a southwest Ohio town today. Scarce regulations and laws on owning exotic animals like this one may get revised after Gov. Jon Kasich signed an executive order last Friday to crack down on ownership of sometimes dangerous critters.

The new legislation was sparked after dozens of animals —including tigers, lions, and monkeys—escaped from a private farm. The panther sighting is the fourth exotic animal incident in the state since Sept. 21, according to Born Free USA, a nonprofit organization that tracks these incidents to show the serious problems associated with private exotic animal ownership.

“The incident in [Zanesville,] Ohio was a tragedy and a massacre,” said Ledy VanKavage, chair of the American Bar Association’s Animal Law Committee. “This shows how necessary exotic pet regulations are.”

Earlier this year, the ABA House of Delegates, the association’s policy-making body, voted to urge federal and local jurisdictions to adopt rules that would ensure that seized animals are treated humanely.

The new executive order calls for state agencies to work together to identify dangerous animals and try to place them in zoos. It also asks for new laws that would change Ohio’s current practices, such as exotic animal auctions.

“Exotic animal auctions need to be outlawed, “ VanKavage said. “The animals cannot be properly taken care of through private ownership.”

Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland put a temporary ban on all new private ownership of exotic animals in Aug. 2010 and required registration and microchip tags on all existing exotic pets. The regulation expired in April, leaving Ohio virtually free of regulation once again.

Ohio currently has only one law and one regulation relating to exotic animals. The law requires owners to report the escape of dangerous non-indigenous animals; the regulation says that no "non-domestic" animal may be imported into the state unless accompanied by a health permit and certificate of veterinary inspection.

Ohio is listed as one of the worst in the nation regarding policies on keeping dangerous and exotic animals as pets, according to the Humane Society. Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma are also on the list.

In the Zanesville incident, police killed the escaped animals.

“If states are going to have inadequate exotic pet regulations, the state’s law enforcement must be properly trained to handle wild animal escapes,” VanKavage said. “However, regulations can and should be put in place. These are not domestic pets; these are wild animals.”

By Phillip Stamper
American Bar Association News Service
Oct. 26, 2011

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/auvet