Exotic animals are a problem in Ohio

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Jul 30 2007 6:45PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In the last 10 years, exotic animals have attacked people or escaped their cages hundreds of times, 10 Investigates’ Tracy Townsend reported.

Some of the instances included a pet alligator that was removed from a northeast side home. In May of 2006, an Ashtabula woman was critically wounded when she was attacked by a neighbor’s bear. In December, Ted Dres, a Cincinnati man was killed by his pet python.

He owned the snake for 15 years when it went on the offensive and lashed out.

Sheriff’s deputies were ill-equipped to handle the emergency, Townsend reported.

What happened to Dres could happen to anyone in Ohio because there are no state laws related to the private ownership of exotic or wild animals.

10 Investigates learned that Ohio laws cover animals that are native to the state. Exotic animals brought in from other places essentially receive a pass, Townsend reported.

No agency regulates the sale of animals that come in from out-of-state. The Ohio Department of Agriculture only requires that they pass a veterinary inspection.

The Animal Protection Institute cites Ohio as one of three, including North Carolina and Washington, without laws regarding private wild and exotic animal ownership.

Ohio State Rep. George Distel is proposing tougher restrictions because the bear attack occurred in his district.

“I’m not against animals but we’ve got to protect the public,” Distel said.

“My bill obviously has caging requirements, insurance requirements, liability requirements, setbacks from neighbors, signage, notification of personnel, neighbors, — things I consider common sense that would insure it’s done in a safe and reasonable way,” Distel said.

“You’re still going to have the problem,” said Tim Harrison, who runs Outreach For Animals. “By having permits does not mean it’s going to make it safe in the community.”

Outreach For Animals is an organization of police, firefighters and paramedics that teaches the dangers of wildlife taken from its natural habitat. Harrison and his group are often first at the scene when animals attack.

It’s like saying Bob down the street has got six tigers,” Harrison said. “Fine, that’s wonderful. Is that going to help you when you’re a firefighter at 3 a.m. and the house is on fire? Absolutely not.”

Outreach For Animals has showcased the growing problem nationally on television programs, including “Inside Edition,” where members went undercover to show how easy it is to buy snakes, tigers, leopards and bears.

Harrison said that lax exotic animal laws have given a yearly $12.5 billion boost to the industry and ruined lives.

“I have never heard of a happy ending to any story of anyone having a large predator as a pet,” Harrison said.

Dres’ family agreed, having learned a tragic lesson about what taking an animal from its home in the wild into a human residence.

The Fair Animal Industry Regulations for Ohio is a group of wild and exotic animal owners. They said that the proposed House Bill 45 would eliminate ownership because many owners would not be able to meet the requirements of insurance and caging. They also feel signage requirements would be magnet and pose a danger to the community.

Distel told 10TV that he would pursue House Bill 45 in the fall session.

http://www.10tv.com/?sec=news&story= sites/10tv/content/pool/200707/1648359558.html

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