Posted By: Matt Miller
May 24, 2007 10:37 AM
The bear cub looks cute. Appears cuddly.
But, once fully grown, could easily kill a person with one swing of his paw.
So who would want to own such an exotic animal?
Apparently thousands of people in the Buckeye State, and as our hidden camera investigation will show, a bear is only one of the many kinds of potentially dangerous animals you can legally buy and keep as pets in Ohio
“We are after animals that actually hurt people,” Says Tim Harrison of the Outreach for Animals group in Ohio.
Harrison knows all about deadly and unpredictable animals.
The Oakwood, Ohio police officer is the first person called when one of them needs to be caught.
Tim has written books, appeared on animal shows and made numerous public appearances, urging for stricter laws against owning exotic pets – like crocodiles, lions and a bear like the one he says recently attacked an Ohio boy.
“Bit him through the arm all the way through his bone,” said Harrison.
“Never even made the news. The bear had to be put down. People get hurt, sometimes killed, and the animal gets killed,” said Harrison.
For proof, Harrison refers to the Animal Protection Institute, which since 1995, claims that there have been 237 reported incidents involving attacks on humans or escapes from cages of possible dangerous animals.
Twenty-five of them were from Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
In just the last four years, Dayton fireman Michael Peterman died after his pet African rhino viper bit him.
Alexandria Hall of North College Hill was killed when her pet Urutu viper struck her on the hand.
And just this past December, Ted Dres of Camp Denison, was found by his girlfriend with his pet Boa constrictor wrapped around him.
Hamilton County Deputy Tony Bono was first to arrive on the scene.
“It was pretty tough. I mean the more I pulled on it, the tighter the snake was pulling,” said Deputy Bono. “I even had a broomstick to push against the snake’s head, and it wasn’t budging.”
Along with two other deputies, Bono finally removed the snake. But it was too late.
Dres had died from strangulation.
Dres’ sister Tracy Miller says Ted had snakes as pets for as long as she could remember, and was surprised his boa killed him.
“I would never thought that snake would hurt him,” said Miller.
“He’s had it for 15 years. Wouldn’t have imagined that in a million years that snake would have done that to him,” said Miller. “That’s why they’re called animals.”
Tim Harrison says that’s the biggest issue.
No matter how much you think you know about a dangerous animal, it only takes a small mistake.
“It just takes one time where it’s either scared or it’s hungry – and it lashes out and gets a hold of you,” said Harrison.
“And, by the time it realizes you are not something to eat, you are already gone,” said Harrison.
But, Harrison says people excited by the idea of owning an exotic animal don’t share his concern.
He says Americans shell out over $12 billion annually to purchase their prized pets.
Pets that can be bought legally right here in Ohio.
We took our hidden camera to Mt. Hope, just 60 miles south of Cleveland, where exotic animal auctions are held throughout the year.
Once inside the auction site, we saw people pushing around monkeys in baby carriages.
A woman feeding one a pie, even sharing the same spoon.
And, as people wander about the llamas, zebras and camels to be auctioned off, our camera found children wandering past dozens of unsupervised cages containing potentially dangerous animals like pythons, scorpions and a growling bobcat.
The auction says the USDA governs them, and all animals must have health permits.
But, Harrison says the real danger comes after the purchase, when the owner becomes too comfortable, and forgets what could happen to their pet in just a split second.
“They turn into animals they are supposed to be,” said Harrison. “Even though they have been raised in captivity, once they know your limitations, they can be the boss now. The show is over.”