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Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the state's Dangerous Wild Animal Act into law this month. Introduced by state Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, the bill was passed by the Ohio State Senate in April and by the Ohio House of Representatives on May 22. The bill was introduced following the slaughter of forty-nine animals released by their owner from a private collection in Zanesville, including eighteen Bengal tigers, seventeen lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves, and a baboon.
Only six states now have little to no restrictions on the private possession of dangerous wild animals: Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. [Editor's note: efforts are currently underway to create a federal law to regulate exotic pets. Please click here to learn more.]
"The ASPCA commends Gov. Kasich for recognizing the need to regulate dangerous exotic animals and ensuring the safety of Ohio residents, as well as the health and well-being of wild animals kept as pets," said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. "Safety should always be the paramount concern of lawmakers, and having dangerous exotic animals in our communities, without any regulation or restrictions, threatens us all and the animals pay the ultimate price."
Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA added, “Today marks a strong—and long overdue—step forward in protecting exotics and Ohioans from the dangerous and inhumane pet wildlife trade. Born Free USA knows the cruel effects of the trade firsthand. Many of our Primate Sanctuary residents were rescued from abusive situations in which they were forced into captivity as someone's pet. We commend Governor Kasich for signing this urgently needed public safety and animal welfare measure into law, and we urge other states to follow suit.”
The new Ohio law will ban new ownership of dangerous wild animals, including big cats, some smaller exotic cats, bears, hyenas, gray wolves, primates, alligators, and crocodiles in Ohio.
Current owners of exotic animals covered under the law's "grandfather clause" must acquire liability insurance or surety bonds ranging from $200,000 to $1 million. These owners also must comply with housing and safety standards that will be established by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
In the United States, the exotic pet trade is a multi-billion dollar industry. Recently, a number of high profile cases of animal abuse and/or attacks by exotic animals have driven new outcry for better regulation of these dangerous "pets."
"Common sense, rather than tragedy, should drive public policy decisions," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, "but sometimes it takes a high-profile event to focus the attention of lawmakers on issues not in the headlines. For all the states that have not adopted sensible policies on private ownership of dangerous exotics, the grim drama that played out in Zanesville should provide all of the evidence they need to get cracking and adopt strict and sensible policies. We are grateful to Governor Kasich and the legislature for standing firm on this issue, and working to protect animal welfare and public safety."