Updated: 07/03/2007 04:36 PM
By: Tim Boyum
North Carolina is just one of nine states nationwide without regulation for private ownership of exotic animals but a proposed ban could end that.
RALEIGH — Proposals to ban exotic animals in North Carolina are creating controversy.
The state is just one of nine nationwide without regulation for private ownership. Tuesday a Senate committee took up the issue and heard an earful from small zoo owners. The intense controversy is forcing lawmakers to hold off on any decisions.
Wendy Wilson drove hours from Mooresville to the General Assembly Tuesday, but she feels it’s vital to make sure her business remains open.
“You’re dealing with people and their animals which they care about very much,” the Lazy Five Ranch operator said. “You’re dealing with their business which they have worked hard for.”
A proposed ban would end private ownership of tigers, lions, monkeys and other animals labeled inherently dangerous. It stems from a 2003 Wilkes County incident where a fourth grader was killed by a tiger kept in his aunt’s yard.
“This bill is about getting an animal out of the back yard; it is not about putting anyone out of business,” said state Sen. Ed Jones (D-Halifax). “It’s about holding people accountable for their actions out here.”
Private zoo and sanctuary owners disagree. They believe the bill would limit exotic animals to nationally certified facilities. There’s only one place in the state with that certification, the North Carolina Zoo.
“It will grandfather in my creatures until January 1, 2008,” Wild Animal Encounters Dan Breeding said. “When those creatures die, I’m done. I have to move back to California or back to Florida where I used to live.”
The bill would also require a $2 million insurance policy and restrict visitation for these animals.
“I think there would be difficulty in finding an insurance provider to write that type of policy,” Wilson added.
“I think they’re misinterprating the language,” added Sen. Jones. “The thing is not putting anyone out of business.”
The proposed ban has caused such a stir, the chair of the committee has set up a subcommittee to take on the issue first. Nearly 40 local governments do have some sort of ban or strict regulation already on the books.