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March 28, 2012

The HSUS Applauds Pennsylvania Senate Committee’s Move to Ban Private Exotic Pet Ownership

The Humane Society of the United States welcomes the Pennsylvania Senate Game and Fisheries Committee’s passage of 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. The HSUS urges the state Senate to pass the bill quickly.

"The keeping of exotic animals as pets is dangerous not only to our children and neighborhoods, but also to the animals themselves,” said Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Adams, chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee. “It is imperative to public safety that we ensure exotic animals are kept in a safe and regulated environment and not someone's backyard."

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,” said Sarah Speed, Pennsylvania state director for The HSUS. "Pennsylvania’s lawmakers should act swiftly to pass this bill to protect residents and prevent animals from suffering in the backyards and basements of people who lack the expertise and facilities needed to house and care for them safely and humanely.”

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 consequences occur when people live in close proximity to wild animals.

In neighboring Ohio, the state Senate is considering a recently introduced bill to reform Ohio’s regulations regarding private ownership of exotic animals after a suicidal man released his menagerie of exotic animals before killing himself. The incident made headlines across the country and sparked efforts to address private ownership of these animals.

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

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