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June 5, 2012

Animal Welfare Organizations Praise Ohio Governor Kasich for Signing Dangerous Wild Animal Act into Law

Ohio now joins majority of states in restricting private ownership of dangerous exotic wildlife

ASPCA®, Born Free USA

The Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA and the ASPCA® issued the following statements in response to Ohio Gov. John Kasich enacting the Dangerous Wild Animal Act into law. Introduced by state Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, the bill was passed by the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 87 to 9 on May 22, and the Ohio Senate by a 30 to 1 vote in April. With Gov. Kasich’s signature, there remain only six states with little to no restrictions on the private possession of dangerous wild animals—Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina and Wisconsin.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS stated, “Common sense, rather than tragedy, should drive public policy decisions, but sometimes it takes a high-profile event to focus the attention of lawmakers on issues not in the headlines. For all the states that have not adopted sensible policies on private ownership of dangerous exotics, the grim drama that played out in Zanesville should provide all of the evidence they need to get cracking and adopt strict and sensible policies. We are grateful to Governor Kasich and the legislature for standing firm on this issue, and working to protect animal welfare and public safety.”

“The ASPCA commends Gov. Kasich for recognizing the need to regulate dangerous exotic animals and ensuring the safety of Ohio residents, as well as the health and well-being of wild animals kept as pets,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “Safety should always be the paramount concern of lawmakers, and having dangerous exotic animals in our communities, without any regulation or restrictions, threatens us all and the animals pay the ultimate price.”

Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA added, “Today marks a strong—and long overdue—step forward in protecting exotics and Ohioans from the dangerous and inhumane ‘pet’ wildlife trade. Born Free USA knows the cruel effects of the trade firsthand. Many of our Primate Sanctuary residents were rescued from abusive situations in which they were forced into captivity as someone's pet. There is an epidemic in this country of owning wild animals as ‘pets’ and it must stop. As documented by Born Free USA's Exotic Animal Incidents Database, numerous incidents involving death and injuries to humans from captive ‘pets’ occur regularly and nationwide. We commend Governor Kasich for signing this urgently needed public safety and animal welfare measure into law, and we urge other states to follow suit.”

The new law will:

•    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; and
•    Require criminal background checks to qualify for a permit for owners of existing exotic animals.

The exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry that contributes to the suffering of millions of animals, often threatening public health and safety, disrupting ecosystems and driving species to endangerment and extinction. Each year across the nation, countless numbers of exotic animals are purchased as pets at retail stores and from private breeders and dealers at auctions or over the Internet. Since the vast majority of people who keep exotic animals cannot meet their needs, the animals often become the victims of abuse and neglect—they are caged, chained, tranquilized or even beaten into submission.

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Media Contacts:

HSUS: Raul Arce-Contreras, 301.721.6440, rcontreras@humanesociety.org

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