October 19, 2011
If January 2011 Emergency Rule Had Not Been Allowed to Expire, Convicted Animal Abuser Would Almost Certainly Have Been Barred from Owning Exotics
The HSUS urges Gov. Kasich to issue emergency order on exotic pets in wake of Zanesville tragedy
After about 50 dangerous wild animals such as lions, bears and wolves escaped the home of a convicted felon in Muskingum County, with dozens already killed by authorities, The Humane Society of the United States is calling on state officials to issue an emergency rule to crack down on keeping dangerous exotics until the Ohio Department of Natural Resources or the Legislature can adopt a permanent legal solution. A previous emergency order issued by former Gov. Ted Strickland, which expired in April, prohibited people convicted of animal cruelty from owning exotic animals. Terry Thompson, found dead on his Zanesville property, had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005, and would almost certainly have had his animals removed by May 1, 2011, if the emergency order had not expired.
The Kasich Administration has convened a stakeholder group to develop standards, including The HSUS, but immediate interim action is required given the public health and animal cruelty concerns. Ohio law authorizes the DNR to regulate the ownership of wild animals, and the governor has broad constitutional authority to issue emergency orders to protect public health and safety.
“Every month brings a new, bizarre, almost surreal incident involving privately held dangerous wild animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “In recent years, Ohioans have died and suffered injuries because the state hasn’t stopped private citizens from keeping dangerous wild animals as pets or as roadside attractions. Owners of large, exotic animals are a menace to society, and it’s time for the delaying on the rulemaking to end.”
Local authorities are now spending enormous resources on personnel, helicopters, infrared and equipment chasing down and killing free-roaming exotic animals in order to protect public safety. The paucity of rules on this issue is not only a threat to public safety, but also a fiscal drain on government resources. The HSUS has offered its assistance to the Ohio DNR, Columbus Zoo and other responding agencies on the ground.
The previous emergency order had banned the sale and acquisition of certain dangerous exotic animals such as bears, big cats, primates, wolves and large constrictor and venomous snakes, but grandfathered in existing owners, as long as they registered with the state by May 1, 2011, and had not been “convicted of an offense involving the abuse or neglect of any animal pursuant to any state, local, or federal law.” Terry Thompson was convicted in December 2005 on one count of having an animal at large, two counts of rendering animal waste without a license, one count of cruelty to animals.
Ohio is one of fewer than 10 states that don’t regulate private ownership of dangerous wild animals, jeopardizing public safety and animal welfare. Addressing the issue was one of the elements of a deal struck by The HSUS and agricultural leaders in the state to advance a series of animal welfare policies in the state.
Last year, a 24-year old man, Brent Kandra, was killed by a captive black bear in Lorain County. The HSUS has documented 22 incidents with dangerous exotic animals in Ohio since 2003, demonstrating risks to public health and safety and animal welfare. A full list is available here.
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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.