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The HSUS Applauds Pennsylvania House of Representatives' Move to Ban Private Exotic Pet Ownership

The Humane Society of the United States welcomes the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ passage Tuesday of state legislation, H.B. 1398, sponsored by Rep. Edward Staback, D-Lackawanna/Wayne, to ban the private possession of dangerous exotic animals, including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, coyotes, bobcats, leopards, cougars, cheetahs, jaguars and primates.

“This legislation will specify that ownership of certain wild animals for private entertainment will be considered mistreatment of that wildlife; it thereby protects the safety of Pennsylvanians as well as these animals,” Staback said.

Under current Pennsylvania law, it is legal to keep dangerous wild animals as pets provided one purchases a permit from the Pennsylvania Game Commission to keep that animal. There is no requirement that the holder of that permit notify neighbors, local law enforcement or schools that the animal is being kept, and there is very little regulatory oversight.

It is also extremely troubling that under current law, if a private possession permit lapses, there is no mechanism under which the Pennsylvania Game Commission can verify that the animal is no longer being kept on the premises.

“No dangerous wild animal should be kept as a pet. H.B. 1398 protects both Pennsylvania residents and wildlife,” said Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "The Humane Society of the United States thanks Representative Staback for his commitment to strengthening Pennsylvania’s wildlife protection laws."

In 2009 Kelly Ann Waltz was attacked and killed by her pet bear in Ross Township. Waltz also held a permit allowing her to keep a Bengal tiger and an African lion. The bear was kept in a 15-foot by 15-foot steel and concrete enclosure and was shot by a neighbor after the attack. This tragic encounter illustrates that often deadly encounters result when people live in close proximity to wild animals.

In neighboring Ohio, great strides are being made as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has recently submitted final recommendations for reforms to Ohio’s regulations regarding private ownership of exotic animals.

H.B. 1398 has been assigned to the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, chaired by Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Adams, whose efforts to protect Pennsylvania’s wildlife includes sponsoring legislation signed by Gov. Ed Rendell to add Pennsylvania to the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact. The Humane Society of the United States urges the Pennsylvania Senate to act quickly to pass H.B. 1398 for the protection of animals and residents alike.

“As chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to protect Pennsylvania’s citizens and wildlife and pledge to move this legislation as quickly as possible,” said Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York.

Media Contact: Pepper Van Tassell: 301-258-1417; pvantassell@humanesociety.org