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May 17, 2012

Animal Welfare Organizations Praise Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee for Passing Dangerous Wild Animal Act

ASPCA, Born Free USA

The Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA and the ASPCA® issued the following statements in response to the passage of the Dangerous Wild Animal Act in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The bill passed the Ohio Senate in April and is expected to be voted on in the full House next week.

“There’s no good reason for private citizens to keep dangerous wild animals as pets on their property,” said Karen Minton, Ohio state director for The Humane Society of the United States.  “We are now so close to getting this long-overdue policy enacted, and we’re grateful to lawmakers for getting it to the cusp of passage.”

“The ownership of exotic animals is an epidemic in this country and not only puts the animals in horrendous situations, but also poses a severe public safety risk,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “Wild animals belong in the wild and there is never a situation when it is okay for a person to have one as a pet.”

“Safety should be the paramount concern of legislators, and having dangerous wild animals in our communities, without any regulation or restrictions, threatens us all.” said Vicki Deisner, ASPCA state legislative director for the Midwest Region. “Ohio legislators should work to protect state citizens and stop this cycle of animal mistreatment by regulating exotics in captivity once and for all. The ASPCA commends the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee for taking this important step and passing S.B. 310.”

If passed, S.B. 310 would:

  • Ban new ownership of dangerous wild animals, including big cats, some smaller exotic cats, bears, hyenas, gray wolves, non-human primate species, alligators and crocodiles in Ohio;
  • Grandfather existing animals so people who currently have them can keep them, as long as they obtain a permit;
  • Require owners of exotic animals covered under the grandfather clause to acquire liability insurance or surety bonds ranging from $200,000 to $1 million;
  • Require existing owners of exotic animals to comply with housing and safety standards that will be established by the Ohio Department of agriculture;
  • Require criminal background checks to qualify for a permit for owners of existing exotic animals.  

The bill rightly exempts professional zoos and sanctuaries accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). Unfortunately, the bill extends those exemptions to individuals associated with the Zoological Association of America (ZAA), a group that advocates for private possession of dangerous exotic pets, and unaccredited “rescue” facilities. It also allows the possession of constrictor snakes under 12-feet in length, even though more than half of the constrictor snake-related deaths in the U.S. have been caused by such snakes.

Even with these imperfections, S.B. 310 is a major step forward for the state. Ohio is currently one of seven states with no restrictions on private ownership of dangerous exotic pets. 

The vote came on the same day that The HSUS released the results of an undercover investigation into the Oklahoma-based GW Exotic Animal Park whose owner, Joe Schreibvogel, lobbied heavily against Ohio’s bill, and made absurd claims that Terry Thompson was murdered by animal advocates in order to advance legislation restricting exotic pets. GW Exotic Animal Park acts as a roadside zoo and traveling zoo, with as many as 200 big cats, and allows dangerous and inhumane interactions with tigers. The HSUS investigation uncovered at least six cases where visitors were bitten or scratched by tigers.

Media Contacts: HSUS: Raul Arce-Contreras, 301.721.6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org
ASPCA: Bret Hopman, 646.291.4574, Bret.Hopman@aspca.org

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