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November 23, 2011

Exotic Pet Ownership Ban Urged After Hampton Man is Bitten by Pet Cobra

In light of recent news of a Hampton man who was hospitalized after being bitten by his pet cobra, The Humane Society of the United States is once again urging Gov. Bob McDonnell and Virginia legislators to act swiftly to prohibit future ownership of dangerous wild animals. Existing laws in Virginia would hardly prevent further tragedies, such as last month’s Zanesville, Ohio, incident when a disturbed man released his 56 big cats, bears, primates and wolves before committing suicide.

Virginia currently has no restrictions for primates or most venomous and constricting snakes and still allows unqualified facilities to possess big cats, bears and wolves.

“People are being injured and killed, animals are being mistreated and killed, and we urge Virginia officials to take immediate steps to end this madness,” said Laura Donahue, Virginia state director for The HSUS. “The possession of dangerous wild animals must be limited only to accredited zoos and sanctuaries. Anything less ensures that reckless people will continue to put the community at risk and compromise the welfare of wild animals.”

Numerous incidents illustrate the hazards of allowing unqualified individuals and facilities to harbor dangerous wild animals. Earlier this year, a man was attacked by one of his two pet java macaques—a species of monkey known for carrying a deadly Herpes B virus—who he was allowing to sleep in his bed. The man was hospitalized due to his injuries, and the monkeys were moved to a pseudo-sanctuary that planned to have their canine teeth extracted in violation of federal law.

Also in recent years:

  • In 2010, six chimpanzees escaped an enclosure for the third time at Windy Oaks Animal Farm in Mechanicsville
  • In 2008, a teenager working at Luray Zoo was attacked by an adult tiger and suffered severe injuries to her hand and arm and lost a finger
  • In 2008, a woman was strangled to death by a python in Virginia Beach
  • In 2006, a child was bitten by a black bear at Maymont Park in Richmond
  • In 2003, two Asiatic bears were shot and killed after escaping from a cage at Natural Bridge Zoo

All of these incidents further demonstrate that the only facilities that should be allowed to house wild animals are zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums or sanctuaries accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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