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April 5, 2012

The HSUS Criticizes West Virginia Exotic Pet Bill Veto

The Humane Society of the United States is disappointed that a bill to restrict the ownership of dangerous wild animals in West Virginia was vetoed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The veto leaves West Virginia as one of only seven states that currently do not regulate the private ownership of dangerous captive wildlife.

“Because of this deeply troubling veto, West Virginia will remain one of the few states in the country with no restrictions on the private ownership of dangerous wildlife, placing public safety and animal welfare in jeopardy,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “God forbid a person gets killed by a pet tiger or chimpanzee in West Virginia because of the failure to enact a sensible policy.”

The legislation was introduced following last year’s incident in Zanesville, Ohio where a convicted felon released his menagerie of about 50 dangerous exotic animals before killing himself. The incident made headlines across the country and sparked efforts to the address private ownership of these animals.

The bill, SB 477, was sponsored by Sen. Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, and a similar bill was also introduced in the House as HB 4644, sponsored by Rep. Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor. As passed by the Legislature, SB 477 would have directed the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) to adopt permit requirements for persons who possess, breed and sell exotic animals. It would have further ordered the DNR to define exotic animals and require owners keeping these animals to maintain liability insurance, properly identify the animals and pay a license fee.

The HSUS predicts that West Virginia will see an influx of dangerous wild animals kept as pets after Ohio is expected to enact a policy cracking down on the private ownership of dangerous captive wildlife. A bill pending in the Ohio Legislature, SB 310, would prohibit individuals from acquiring dangerous animals such as big cats, primates, wolves, bears and crocodiles, and create strong new housing standards for species currently kept by private citizens.

In light of the incident in Zanesville, Ohio, The HSUS strongly urges the Division of Natural Resources to immediately enter into rulemaking to promulgate rules to require licenses for persons who possess, breed and sell exotic animals, and ban future ownership. The HSUS believes that the DNR has the authority to take action on this issue under current law.

The HSUS expresses its thanks to West Virginia legislators who worked to pass SB 477, an important public safety and animal welfare bill, and urges Gov. Tomblin and the Division of Natural Resources to support future legislation and take any possible regulatory actions to address this problem.

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


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