Hey, can I pet your camel ?
Because of Elyria’s new city animal ordinance, this question isn’t as bizarre as it might sound
ELYRIA — Under a new animal ordinance in the city, you can have a camel but you can’t have a bunny within 500 feet of another home.
You can have a gecko, but you can’t have a spider.
You can have a shark, but you can’t have a piranha.
You can have a sea lion, but you can’t have a monkey.
You can have a kinkajou, a brownish critter from South America, but you can’t have a chicken within 500 feet of another home.
The passage of a new law on Sept. 4 banning various exotic animals and limiting farm animals has been ridiculed by critics, including people posting messages on Web sites.
Is Elyria “Banning the Bunny” but allowing elephants?
The law prohibits people from keeping any horse, mule, cattle, sheep, goat, swine, rabbit, chicken, goose or other fowl or animal, except a dog or cat, within 500 feet of an inhabited dwelling.
Violating the law is punishable by a fine of up to $100.
The exotic animal part of the ordinance also prohibits the following: all poisonous animals, including fanged snakes and spiders; apes, baboons and monkeys; bears; cheetahs; crocodiles; constrictor snakes 6 feet or longer; coyotes; gamecocks and other fighting birds; hyenas; jaguars; leopards; lions; lynxes; foxes; piranhas; pumas; snow leopards; tigers; wolves; and birds of prey.
Violating the exotic animal portion is punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
The harshest critics of the ordinance are 4-H parents who say the law would strike at the heart of projects involving rabbits, chickens, pigs and goats.
The law is scheduled to go into effect in two weeks, but Mayor Bill Grace said it won’t be enforced until City Council revises it with help from the city Law Department.
Assistant Law Director Michael Szekely said he is researching several options.
The city could limit people to having no more than two of any animal, which would eliminate complaints about odor from a whole pen of animals, he said.
Another alternative is to exempt 4-H or school projects from being covered under the law, he said.
The proposal to limit ownership to just two animals doesn’t make sense, said Debbie Zerbini.
Her son, Anthony, exhibited a doe — a breeding female — and a litter of pure-bred rabbits at the Lorain County Fair last month.
“How can a 4-H kid take a doe and litter with only two rabbits?” Zerbini asked.
She said the other proposal doesn’t make sense either because some of her neighbors have rabbits that cause no harm, but those animals are not 4-H projects.
The owners of exotic animals are also concerned but are keeping a lower profile, according to the manager of Best-In-Pets pet store on North Abbe Road.
The manager, who declined to give her name, said about 100 customers have mentioned the new law to her and have urged her to start a petition to oppose it.
“There are people out there who want something other than dogs for pets,” she said.
Dedendra Schwarz, an employee at the shop, is one of those people.
Her 8-year-old son, Tyler, owns an 18-inch Chinese Water Dragon, a lizard he named Albert Pujols after his favorite baseball player.
Lizards are not listed as banned animals, and Schwarz hopes Council keeps it that way.
“He’s very attached to his lizard,” she said. “Even my great-aunt likes it, and she’s in her late 70s.”
Councilman Garry Gibbs, R-3rd Ward, said he thinks the whole law is a mess and it should be tossed.
There were no real problems to deal with in the first place, he said.
“I don’t recall the last time in Elyria when someone was eaten by a raptor,” he said.
Complaints about the law have been flowing in ever since it was approved.
Eric Woody, who lives in the Robin Park subdivision, said the law is ridiculous.
“If rabbits are now illegal in the city of Elyria, does that mean that at 4 a.m. when I leave for work and I see rabbits all over the neighborhood that I should be calling the police and reporting this illegal activity?” he asked.
“There are also illegal spiders all over my back yard, along with occasional raccoons, skunks, deer and squirrels,” he said. “I now feel it will be my civic job to report this to the proper authorities.”
Gibbs encouraged 4-H participants to express their views and even bring their pets to the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
Szekely, who drew up the new law, said a little more input wouldn’t hurt.
“Maybe someone from one of these pet shops should come and testify before Council,” Szekely said.
If Council rewrites the ordinance and continues to ban some animals, Law Director Terry “Pete” Shilling said any existing pets might have to be “grandfathered in.”
The only issue is that people would have to keep some proof that they owned the animal before the law went into effect, he said.
“I’m inclined to believe if they can prove they had the animal before this went into effect that we can’t do anything,” Shilling said.
HOW ANIMALS ARE REGULATED
Amherst: You must have 5 or more acres to have farm animals. Within one hour you must report to authorities the escape of any exotic animal.
Avon: No ordinances
Avon Lake: No ordinances
Elyria: You must have 5 or more acres to have farm animals. A new law passed Monday prohibits keeping horses, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, swine, rabbits, chicken, goose or other fowl or animal, except a dog or cat, within 500 feet of an inhabited dwelling. The new law also bans the following: all poisonous animals, including fanged snakes and spiders; apes, baboons and monkeys; bears; cheetahs; crocodiles; constrictor snakes of six feet or more; coyotes; game cocks and other fighting birds; hyenas; jaguars; leopards; lions; lynxes; foxes; piranha fish, pumas, snow leopards, tigers, wolves and birds of prey.
Lorain: The city bans wild animals or any carnivorous animal capable of causing physical harm or death to humans ranging from lions and bears to ferrets. The city also bans farm animals used for meat or fiber including cattle, sheep, swine, goats, chickens, roosters, llamas or horses.
North Ridgeville: Farm animals and exotic animals are required to have proper confinement and sanitary conditions.
Oberlin: No animal is prohibited as long as it does not create a nuisance, health hazard or stench.
Sheffield Lake: Information unavailable
Sheriff’s Department (includes all townships): No animal is prohibited, but quarters for exotic or farm animals can be inspected by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
Wellington: Within one hour you must report to authorities the escape of any animal not indigenous to Ohio that could present the risk of serious physical harm to persons or property. If you keep a snake, reptile or other exotic animal, you are required to keep it secure.
Source: police departments, Council clerks or mayor’s offices
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