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Ohio Officials Taking Exotic Animal Care "Seriously"

Animal-welfare advocates say private, exotic animal ownership poses public safety risks. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Animal-welfare advocates say private, exotic animal ownership poses public safety risks. Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
October 9, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio - With recent seizures of tigers and bears in Ohio, animal-welfare advocates say state officials are taking exotic-animal care seriously.

The state's exotic-animal law went into effect in 2012, one year after dozens of lions, tigers and bears were released by a Zanesville man who then took his own life. Under the law, owners of dangerous animals are required to apply for a permit and follow certain care guidelines.

Debbie Leahy, manager of captive wildlife protection for the Humane Society of the United States, said it is helping to curb a problem that's been out of control.

"Legislators clearly cracked down on this problem, and some people who have kept these animals have resisted, but it's just common-sense legislation," she said. "People shouldn't be keeping pet tigers or pet bears."

Officials removed five tigers from a Marion County home on Monday, and four bears were seized from a property in Montgomery County on Wedneday. The animals were taken to the state's temporary holding facility, where dozens of surrendered or seized animals have been held since the law was enacted. Authorities say the owners did not follow the law's requirements.

Leahy said there is an obvious public-safety risk with the private ownership of exotic animals. In 2010, an Ohio man was killed by a captive bear. But she adds that there also are animal-welfare concerns.

"Animals don't do well in captivity," she said, "and it really takes a facility that knows what they're doing and has adequate resources and enough space to provide these animals with the kind of environment that they need."

However, she pointed out that there are bonafide sanctuaries that are accredited and provide conditions for animals that greatly exceed the minimum standard of federal law.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH