Ohio to review exotic animal ownership rules following release, killing of 49 exotic species, including lions and tigers


Ohio to review exotic animal ownership rules following release, killing of 49 exotic species, including lions and tigers

Ohio Veterinary Medical Association calls on state to restrict ownership of non-native wild animals
Oct 24, 2011
By dvm360.com staff
Columbus, Ohio — In the aftermath of the release and killing of 49 exotic and dangerous wild animals, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich issued an executive order calling for state agencies to increase inspections and enforce state laws related to animal health, captivity and cruelty.

Just after a Zanesville, Ohio, man allegedly released 56 wild and exotic animals, including 17 lions and 18 rare Bengal tigers, and then fatally shot himself, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA), American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) all released positions calling on Ohio lawmakers to beef up existing laws regarding the ownership of wild and dangerous exotic animals.

"The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association (OVMA) supports legislative and regulatory efforts to restrict private ownership of indigenous and non-native wild animals that pose a significant risk to public health, domestic animal health or the ecosystem, as well as those species whose welfare is unacceptably compromised," the veterinary association says. "The possession of exotic and dangerous animals by private individuals presents a clear risk to public safety, as well as unnecessarily compromising animal welfare. "Ohio's veterinary community will continue to work with state entities to advance appropriate restrictions on exotic animal ownership in an expeditious manner," OVMA says.

The governor's executive order calls for the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Agriculture to cooperate in the investigation and inquiry into private places where dangerous wild animals are housed, maintained and owned.

The executive order reaffirms state government’s role in protecting the public from animal diseases by collecting information about the number and type of "non-native dangerous wild animals" and assessing the condition of the animals and their housing.

After last week's incident captured the international spotlight, Ohio's governor set up a task force to draft new rules on exotic animal ownership.

During the Oct. 18 incident, four veterinarians were on the scene to help local law enforcement contain the escaped zoo animals — lions, tigers, cheetahs, bears and others — from this local exotic-animal preserve.

Two veterinarians from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and two veterinarians from The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center in Cumberland, Ohio, were asked by local law enforcement to help deputies track and contain the animals, says Patty Peters, vice president of community relations for the Columbus Zoo. Famed animal handler Jack Hanna, director emeritus at the Columbus Zoo, also was on the scene.

"The unfortunate events involving the release of wild and dangerous animals in Muskingum County serves as a reminder that Ohio's absence of meaningful regulation of exotic animals needs to be addressed in an appropriate and timely manner," OVMA stated just prior to release of the executive order.