Ohio Gov Strickland Bans Owning WIld Animals

State will decide fate of his 90-day order
Friday, January 7, 2011 02:48 AM

Buying or selling a big cat, bear, wolf, primate, crocodile or large constricting or venomous snake is now officially banned in Ohio.

And if you already have one of those critters and want to keep it, you’ll have to register it with the state by May 1 and annually thereafter, under terms of an executive order issued yesterday by Gov. Ted Strickland.

“This rule will help protect Ohioans from deaths and serious injuries caused by attacks from dangerous wild animals held in private ownership,” Strickland said in a statement.

The governor’s emergency order, which is effective immediately, will expire after 90 days. That is long enough, the outgoing governor reasoned, for a permanent exotic-animal ban to be submitted by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and accepted by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, a legislative panel.

The order is Strickland’s final action to live up to terms of an agreement he brokered last year with the Ohio Farm Bureau, agricultural leaders and the Humane Society of the United States. The deal stopped a proposed Humane Society livestock-care issue from reaching the statewide ballot in the fall.

The governor’s order “prevents new private ownership of wild animals that are dangerous to human health and safety, requires existing private owners of dangerous wild animals to register the animals with the state, and details the type of facilities that can own and rehabilitate dangerous wild animals.”

It bans “ownership, breeding, selling, trading and bartering of dangerous wild animals” unless someone currently owns such an animal. Current owners cannot “breed, sell, trade or barter” the animals, and once a banned animal dies, it cannot be replaced.

Strickland’s successor, Gov.-elect John Kasich, who takes office on Monday, indicated yesterday that he might support a permanent exotic-animal ban.

“It sounds reasonable, but let me just take a look at it,” Kasich told reporters. “I would be inclined to say we should continue it.”

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society, praised the order. He said Ohio was one of a handful of states that have had “virtually no regulation” of private ownership of wild animals.

“Dangerous wild animals do not belong in the backyards and basements of private citizens,” Pacelle said. “It’s bad for the animals and dangerous for people.”

The move to ban private ownership of exotic pets gained momentum in August when Brent Kandra, 24, was killed by a bear in a private menagerie in Lorain.

There is no tracking or count of wild animals kept as pets in Ohio. However, Tim Harrison, a retired Oakwood, Ohio, firefighter-paramedic and director of Outreach for Animals, said they are “sold by the hundreds.”

Harrison, who tracks down animals that have escaped or been released by owners, has found cobras in Cleveland and a cougar on the streets of Dayton.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, which was established in response to the threat of a state issue by the Humane Society, continues to make progress in addressing the five issues it took on through the agreement, Pacelle said. Most of those relate to farm-animal confinement.

Pacelle said he expects state lawmakers will introduce legislation this year to ban cockfighting and “set humane breeding standards for large-scale, commercial dog-breeding operations.”

Both of those were also part of the Strickland agreement.

ajohnson@dispatch.com

bigcatrescue.org

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