Humane Society urges Indiana to stop issuing wild animal permits

Associated Press
Posted on Thu, Nov. 16, 2006

The Humane Society of the United States is urging Indiana to stop issuing permits that allow people to keep wild animals as pets, saying they pose a threat of injury and disease to their owners.

Diane Webber, director of the Humane Society’s Central States Region, issued the plea after an Indianapolis man was charged this week with keeping 15 venomous snakes. The snakes were discovered after the man sought medical treatment for a snake bite.

Michael Fillenwarth was charged with possession of a dangerous reptile without a permit.

The incident followed one in September, when a 14-foot python killed its owner in Lanesville in southern Indiana.

Many states, including Kentucky, ban exotic animals as pets. The Humane Society says 23 states ban large cats, 10 ban keeping reptiles and 10 ban nonhuman primates.

Indiana residents, however, can get a permit from the state Department of Natural Resources to keep dangerous animals such as snakes, lions, tigers, wolves, bears and alligators.

Webber said it’s “ludicrous” to keep wild animals as pets.

“They’re exotic animals, they belong in the wild, not in our backyards and our basements,” she said. “They pose a safety threat to the public as well as their owners,” along with the threat of disease, she said.

Linnea Petercheff, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources specialist in charge of permits, said the state has issued 71 active permits for dangerous wild animals. The list includes 16 permits for bears, 21 for large cats, 12 for venomous snakes, eight for alligators and 14 for wolves.

DNR spokeswoman Angela Goldman said Indiana is not considering a ban.

New Albany resident Jeffrey Huncilman agrees with the Humane Society’s position.

He has a state permit to keep a 1-year-old serval – a long-legged spotted wildcat – at his home. “Radar” stands about 22 inches tall, said Huncilman, who describes that cat as “kind of a poor man’s cheetah.”

He said a ban that would include animals such as “Radar” would be too broad, but added, “If it has to be one way or the other, I’d say deny them all.”

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