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April 2, 2013

The HSUS Praises the West Virginia Senate for Passing the Dangerous Wild Animal Act

The Humane Society of the United States commends the West Virginia Senate for passing Senate Bill 466, to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals. SB 466 creates a Dangerous Wild Animal Board to determine which animals will be included under the law. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. William Laird, D-10, passed by a 32 to 1 vote.  

“Lax laws in West Virginia have put public safety and animal welfare at risk, and it’s time for our state to join the rest of the nation in adopting common-sense policies to protect people and animals,” said Summer Wyatt, West Virginia state director for The HSUS.

Dangerous wild animals kept by unqualified people have escaped in West Virginia, posing a risk to citizens and creating a burden for law enforcement. Since 2000:

  • A pet chimpanzee escaped in Sprague and bit two people
  • A rhesus macaque escaped in Martinsburg and bit two children and a teenager
  • A pet monkey brought to a shopping mall in Huntington bit a teenager
  • Ravenswood police issued a community alert after a resident’s 9-foot reticulated python escaped near a daycare center and elementary school
  • An African lion was spotted by a hunter running loose in Greenbrier County
  • In two separate incidents, a bear and a tiger escaped from a private menagerie in Pocahontas County

West Virginia is one of only six states with little to no laws on the keeping of dangerous wild animals. Every state surrounding West Virginia has stronger policies in this area.The time has come for West Virginia to follow the trend of states that have taken decisive action on this issue.

Facts:

  • Animal experts, including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians oppose the private possession of exotic and wild animals as pets.
  • Since 1990, there have been nearly 1,200 dangerous incidents involving captive big cats, bears, primates and large constrictor snakes nationwide, resulting in 40 human deaths (including eight children) and more than 650 injuries.
  • Wild animals retain their basic instincts, even if they are born in captivity and hand-raised. When the animals grow too large and difficult to handle, they are typically confined to small cages, passed from owner to owner or simply turned loose—endangering the community and native wildlife.
  • Dangerous wild animals can cause death, inflict serious injury and spread deadly diseases.

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

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