Update on Ohio’s SB 310 – HR 483
I knew that I was going to be surrounded by wild eyed crazy people; the same animal abusers who make both veiled and not so obscure threats such as, “before you bring me down…you will stop breathing!” I knew that they would be out en masse to object to a proposed law that would require that they register their wild animals and begin to act responsibly and humanely toward them. I had seen that they had far out numbered the few sane people who had testified before the Senate committee in April and could have justified NOT going to Ohio since the Senate obviously saw through them by voting 30 to 1 for the ban. But I had heard that the House might be more inclined to perceive tigers as property and I felt that it was important to show them just how dangerous the conditions are where these people are housing lions, tigers and other dangerous wild animals.
Since I didn’t think that Columbus lawmakers would be particularly interested in what a Floridian had to say, I asked Marie Collart, who has run The Breathing Association in Columbus, Ohio for the last 31 years if she would be willing to testify. Marie had a unique perspective that was important for the decision makers to hear. Back in 2003 she had first met Joseph and Sasha the lions, along with 6 tigers who were in the back yard of a Gambier, OH woman. Seeing the lack of funding, which was resulting in a lack of proper housing and vet care, Marie did what she did best and began a non profit organization called the Siberian Tiger Conservation Foundation. Her intent was to bring in a professional board, raise funds and provide these big cats with proper care. Marie quickly learned that the owner appeared to be a a narcissistic, delusional, compulsive liar. The owner squandered initial donations for breast implants, so the board found they could not trust her to use the funds for the cats.
Despite the fact that Marie was right in between her largest grant writing project of the year and her annual Mother’s Day fundraiser for the lung health non profit that she runs, she agreed immediately to testify on May 8th. She showed the House members pictures of the adorable baby photos of Joseph the lion and contrasted them to the full size lion that he had grown into by age three. Her point was to illustrate how people make bad decisions to buy these predators as cute and cuddly babies, only to find themselves in danger for their lives a few years later as the cats mature. Marie testified as to how both of the owners had ended up trapped and in fear for their lives by the lions that they had bottle raised. She relayed a heart thumping account of how one of their “professional” trainers had been dragged across the compound by his foot. The tigers had been declawed and defanged so that it probably the only reason the person still has a foot.
Others, including Karen Minton of HSUS, Patty Finch the CEO of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, Cathy Cowan-Becker and her husband, Tim Harrison, as well as the mother of a young man who was mauled to death at an Ohio compound by a bear and the Sheriff who was in charge during the catastrophe in Zanesville gave excellent testimony as to why this bill is so necessary and so long over due. My testimony was accompanied by 11 pages of horrific photos; many from Ohio, of the conditions where lions, tigers and other wild cats are kept. The point was that those photos are the norm and not just a few bad examples.
While animal lovers like us were, by far, in the minority at the hearings, which ran for three days straight, the opposition to the bill was probably the best evidence as to why there needs to be a ban on the trade in big cats, bears, giant pythons and other dangerous wild animals. It seemed that most of them were reading from the same script which ridiculously implied that Big Cat Rescue, the Humane Society of the United States, Jack Hanna and the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries had all conspired to kill Sam Mazolla, and Terry Thompson and that we had turned all of the lions, tigers and bears loose on the community so as to spark a panic that would result in a law that would further our “agenda” of driving all wild animals to extinction through private pet bans.
No wonder the Senate voted 30 to 1 and what was that one guy thinking when he voted that people who are this crazy should have lions and tigers in their back yards and basements? Stay tuned to see how the House votes.
As you can see from the photos below, Marie Collart truly appreciates the magnificence of big cats in her photography at MarieCollart.com and donates her proceeds to help Big Cat Rescue in our mission to care for cats and end the trade.
Vote on wild-animal bill may be next week
The head of the legislative panel reviewing new state regulations on the private ownership of dangerous wild animals is eyeing a vote on the legislation next week.
Rep. Dave Hall, a Republican from Millersburg and chairman of the House agriculture committee, asked members to submit proposed amendments by today. He’s scheduled three days of committee sessions on the bill next week just in case but doesn’t plan to hear any further testimony, after three days and 15-plus hours of comments this week from nearly 60 witnesses.
The legislation was introduced months after Ohio was thrust into the international spotlight after an incident in Zanesville in which deputy sheriffs were forced to kill dozens of tigers, bears, lions and other animals let loose by their suicidal owner.
Senate Bill 310, which passed the Ohio Senate last month, addresses the issue by categorizing bears, tigers, lions, elephants, Komodo dragons, crocodiles and other species as “dangerous wild animals” and monkeys, tamarins and other apes as restricted primates.
Existing owners of animals in both categories would be banned from acquiring new ones after the law takes effect. They could keep their existing animals as long as they register with the state, implant microchips in their animals and obtain proper permits.
The legislation also would categorize a variety of anacondas, pythons and other restricted snakes, with owners required to obtain possession and propagation permits.
Anyone not holding the proper permits or meeting state requirements would be banned from having dangerous wild animals as of 2014.
While not offering specifics on how the legislation will be amended, Hall was supportive of adding language requiring local governments to formulate plans to deal with animal-emergencies such as the one in Zanesville.
Hall also is considering whether to place limits on the private ownership of dangerous wild animals in close proximity to schools, day-care centers and other public facilities.
Many of those offering testimony during three hearings this week opposed the legislation, saying the issue is being pushed by animal-rights activists and that privately held animals posed little threat to public safety.
The legislation “has no merit as a human-safety issue, health issue or animal-welfare issue,” said Terry Wilkins, owner of a chain of central Ohio reptile stores.
He added, “SB 310 is not going to stop someone from murdering Ohioans and turning their animals loose.”