Ohio Senate passes bill to restrict ownership of exotic animals
The Ohio Senate recently passed a bill that would restrict the ownership of exotic animals, including tigers, lions and other species. The bill, which cleared the Senate by a 30-1 vote and now goes to the House for consideration, would ban Ohio residents from acquiring new exotic animals and place strict regulations on those who currently own exotic species. Sanctuaries, research institutions and other facilities accredited by national zoo groups would be exempt from the bill.
If the bill gets signed into law by the governor, current owners would be allowed to keep their exotic animals but would be required to obtain a state-issued permit by 2014. In addition, these owners would have to meet other strict conditions, including passing a background check, posting warning signs and obtaining liability insurance.
The measure follows the October release of dozens of exotic animals by their owner, Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio, who subsequently committed suicide. The release ultimately resulted in the death of 48 of the animals by authorities. Five of the surviving animals were quarantined and underwent health evaluations for infectious or contagious diseases.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has since lifted the quarantine and the animals will be returned to Marian Thompson, the widow of the man who released them. According to ODA, Mrs. Thompson has indicated that she intends to take the animals back to the farm in Zanesville and return them to the cages they were originally housed in.
"This raises concerns, as she has indicated the cages have not been repaired, and has repeatedly refused to allow animal welfare experts to evaluate if conditions are safe for the animals and sufficient to prevent them from escaping and endangering the community," said Erica Pitchford, spokesperson for ODA, in a prepared statement.