By Geena Martinez
WEST ODESSA – Big cats in the county, are they legal? That’s the question many are asking after a four-year-old child was mauled over the weekend by a pet mountain lion.
NewsWest 9 went looking for some answers and it even had city officials doing the same. NewsWest 9 spoke with Captain Robert Newman with Texas Parks and Wildlife.
He said according to a statute under state law, a mountain lion falls under the category of a dangerous wild animal. That means anyone in possession of that animal must have a permit and is required to follow certain regulations to keep it.
Under this state law, in Ector County, permits are supposed to be issued through animal control.
Back in 2001, commissioners approved a wild animal ordinance stating the regulations in Ector County.
According to that ordinance, owners must provide a proper enclosure that’s at least six times the size of the animal. That animal also can’t be within 1,000 feet from a school or other residence.
A major section in that ordinance, the owner must have insurance on that animal in case it causes any damage to property, bodily injury or death.
But as NewsWest 9 found out, none of this has ever been enforced with this mountain lion in West Odessa or any other wild animal.
Ector County Judge Susan Redford said there was a breakdown of communication over the years, causing this law to fall to the wayside.
However, she said the county and city will be taking up this issue immediately to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
You may be wondering if the owners of this big cat face any charges or fines. The answer is no. Corporal Sherrie Carruth with the Odessa Police Department said the owners of this mountain lion had the animal before this ordinance went into effect and they aren’t facing any fines.
For anyone else wanting to own a wild or dangerous animal, they will have to go through animal control in the future and follow the state and county regulations.
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