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March 14, 2012

Ad Campaign Launched to Urge Ohio Lawmakers to Take Tough Stance on Exotic Pets

S.B. 310 a Good Start, Should be Strengthened to Effectively Restrict Ownership of Dangerous Captive Wildlife

Ohioans for Humane Farms

The Humane Society of the United States and Ohioans for Humane Farms placed a full-page ad today in the Columbus Dispatch calling on state lawmakers to crack down on the private ownership of dangerous wild animals in Ohio and to strengthen and pass S.B. 310, the Dangerous Wild Animal Act, introduced by Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville.

The ad features an iconic photo taken in Zanesville last October after Terry Thompson released approximately 50 tigers, lions, bears and other dangerous exotic animals before committing suicide. The ad states: “Senate Bill 310 is a good start. But it must be strengthened to be an effective response to the scale of Ohio’s problem.” Included in the ad are quotes from Gov. John Kasich, celebrity wildlife advocate and Columbus Zoo official Jack Hanna, and newspaper editorials from across the state urging a strong response to the problem of dangerous wild animals kept as pets.

“Passing S.B. 310 must be a priority concern for the state of Ohio, and it’s a critical plank in the animal welfare agreement reached in 2010 between farm groups and the Humane Society of the United States,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “The Zanesville tragedy played out not only because of the actions of a troubled man, but also because of the absence of sound policies in the state forbidding private citizens from keeping dangerous wild animals in their backyards. Ohio is one of seven states with no rules governing private ownership of dangerous exotics, and we simply cannot wait for another tragedy to happen before sensible policies are enacted.”

The groups are also pressing for the removal of an exemption for school mascots, including Massillon High School’s tiger cub mascot. The school acquires a new cub every year, and The HSUS estimates that food costs alone total $200,000 per tiger over an estimated 20-year lifespan. Housing and care for each cub costs up to $800,000 over the animal’s life. In just about every case, it’s a bad outcome for the tigers or the people who are enlisted to care for them.

In addition to exempting school mascots, the sponsors of the ad recommend two other revisions to the Dangerous Wild Animal Act:

•    Eliminating an exemption for private citizens associated with the Zoological Association of America, a fringe group that promotes the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets. ZAA must not to be confused with the professional and credible Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
•    Tightening up language related to large constricting snakes and barring new acquisitions of these animals as pets.

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Media Contact: Raúl Arce-Contreras, 301-721-6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org

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