Ohio Association of Animal Owners

 
OAAO

Ohioans – Is your right to own hedgehogs or other small exotics in jeopardy?

As an exotic animal owner and breeder I have been closely watching the evolution of Ohio's Exotic Animal Law. The basic premise of exotic law is to protect the average citizens from dangerous animals right? Maybe not. The Ohio Association of Animal Owners has been a diligent advocate for animal owner rights. In the spring of 2011 ALL exotic animal owners became dangerously close to losing their rights as animal owners. Don't think it could happen to Ohioans? Residents of Pennsylvania, Arizona, California, Georgia, and Hawaii have already lost their rights. For more information please check out the following websites:

According to OAAO, The ODNR has posted its "Final Report" today on the Dangerous Wild Animal issue:

http://ohiodnr.com/downloads/FINALREPORT-113011.pdf

This is nothing more than a memo to the Governor's office. It is not legislation, and it is still very vague. Until we see the actual bill, there are many unanswered questions.

Please take a few minutes to call 614-466-3555 and ask to speak to someone about the "dangerous wild animal" or "exotic animal" regulations. Try and get the name of the person you end up speaking to. Tell him or her that you object to the Governor's plan to eliminate these animals from the state of Ohio and that you have contacted, or will be contacting, your State Representative and Senator to express your opposition to this plan. Be courteous.

Let me know what sort of response you get.

Please do your part and become a member of OAAO!

Sincerely,

Gail

 

Exotic animal ban may have too big a bite for lawmakers

By Alan Johnson

The Columbus Dispatch Thursday December 1, 2011 10:20 AM

A proposed ban on private ownership of exotic animals in Ohio beginning Jan. 1, 2014, ran into legislative opposition as soon as it arrived yesterday.

State Sen. Troy Balderson, a Zanesville Republican expected to sponsor the proposed legislation, said he sees good things included in the recommendations from a specially appointed committee.

But he said: "I don't want to ban exotic animals. Ohio has the most-lenient laws in the country, and we need to do something about that. We need to protect people. We need to protect small-business owners, and we need to protect the animals."

Balderson said his home in Muskingum County is about 7 miles from the site where on Oct. 18 law-enforcement officers killed 48 animals, including bears, lions, tigers and wolves, that had been set free by their owner. Terry W. Thompson committed suicide after releasing the animals.

Six surviving animals remain in quarantine at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
"I know people that live on that road," Balderson said. "But not everybody out there is like Terry Thompson. There's a lot of good people out there now with animals that are USDA (Department of Agriculture) regulated."

Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, expressed concerns about a recommendation to empower authorities to seize animals on the restricted-species list if owners don't voluntarily give them up by the 2014 deadline.

"I'm not sure what the legal issue is there, and if that could be considered a 'taking,'  " he said, referring to a legal term on depriving an owner of the use and enjoyment of his or her property.

"I want to make sure we're not doing some things that are too much of a reach. If they're being well taken care of or housed properly and not posing a danger to others, we have to ask questions about whether it's appropriate to remove those animals."

The prohibition on private ownership of exotic animals is the heart of a report submitted yesterday to Gov. John Kasich and legislative leaders by a committee representing government and animal-interest groups that was appointed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The committee did not take a vote on the proposal at its final meeting on Nov. 21. At least one member said she would oppose it.

Action by the General Assembly on the recommendations is not expected until after Jan. 1.

Animals on the banned list include panthers, hyenas, lions, tigers, primates, elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, pythons, boa constrictors and wolf-dog hybrids.

Natural Resources Director James Zehringer said the proposed rules, had they been in place earlier, would have prohibited Thompson from owning his personal menagerie.

"He obviously wouldn't have met our standards," Zehringer said in a conference call with reporters. "We're moving forward with our standards. They're going to be very, very tough standards. ... Casual ownership like that wouldn't have met these standards."

Under the proposal, owners would not have to get rid of animals on the list before 2014, but they would have to register them within 60 days of the effective date of the law.

If the animals aren't turned over by the deadline in two years, they would be "subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture," under the proposal.

Also, all public auctions of "dangerous wild animals" would be prohibited.

There would be "civil and criminal penalties for improper release, illegal possession and other violations," the report said.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture would oversee restricted-species enforcement.

Zoos, circuses and research facilities would be exempted. Animal sanctuaries and propagators could have animals that are on the list, but they would have to be inspected and licensed by the state

ajohnson@dispatch.com

Growly Kasich backs exotic-animal ban

By Joe Vardon and Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch Thursday December 1, 2011 11:59 PM

ORLANDO, Fla. — Ohio residents have "no excuse" for owning exotic wild animals, Gov. John Kasich said, challenging fellow Republican lawmakers who question the need for a full ban.
" Unless they are a sanctuary, unless they're connected to a zoo, unless they're an official breeder and they are registered, there is no reason for them to have these animals,"Kasich told The Dispatch today.

" Why would you have a mountain lion? Why would you have a grizzly bear?" Kasich said. "You want to go see a grizzly bear? Go to the zoo. Go up for a hike up in Glacier Park, and pray you don't see one."

Kasich, who is attending the Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, made it clear that he expects reluctant lawmakers to support the proposed ban, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2014. He made his comments a day after receiving formal recommendations from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and a special study committee.

Meanwhile, two interest groups staked out very different positions on the proposal. The Humane Society of the U.S. generally supports the measure, and the Ohio Association of Animal Owners opposes it.

The Republican governor declined to criticize Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, and Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville. Balderson, the likely sponsor of the legislation, opposes a ban entirely, while Niehaus is concerned about a provision that would allow restricted animals to be seized and confiscated if they are not surrendered by 2014.

" This is not about private property," Kasich countered. "This is about public safety."
Kasich said there could be more than 500 big cats in private owners' hands in Ohio now and the state doesn'n t have the capacity to house them — one of the reasons he supports the two-year delay before a full ban takes effect.

Saying he's worked extensively on the proposal with Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Kasich promised to "scrub down" the recommendations, make them tougher and deliver legislation to the General Assembly soon. Lawmakers will hear from Hanna, the Humane Society and other influential groups that support the ban, Kasich said.

Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee, said he expects hearings on the bill will start in January.

Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the U.S., said he is encouraged by the recommendations: " While there remain some open questions for the legislature to resolve, the recommendations make it clear that dangerous exotic animals have no business in private backyards and basements. What's needed ... are strong rules to ban auctions, to stop casual ownership and to limit private possession of these animals to accredited zoos and sanctuaries."

Polly Britton, representing the Ohio Association of Animal Owners, said her group opposes an outright ban on exotic animals and wants to see exemptions expanded for legitimate Ohio animal businesses.

Britton said she doesn't want to think about what owners might be forced to do if the law passes and they have to get rid of their animals in two years.

" If they haven't been able to sell them or give them away prior to that date, I don't see any alternative other than to let the state confiscate and kill them," Britton said.

The banned species list include panthers, hyenas, lions, tigers, primates, elephants, rhinoceroses, giraffes, hippopotamuses, crocodiles, pythons, boa constrictors and gray wolves.

Owners would not have to get rid of animals on the list before 2014, but they would have to register them within 60 days of the effective date of the law. Animals not sold or moved out of state by the deadline would be "subject to immediate confiscation and forfeiture,"under the proposal.

Public auctions of "dangerous wild animals" would be prohibited.

There would be "civil and criminal penalties for improper release, illegal possession and other violations," the report said.

The Oct. 18 incident that sparked a national uproar over exotic pets in Ohio —when Terry W. Thompson set 56 lions, tigers, leopards, bears and primates free at his Muskingum County home before killing himself — was a "tragedy" that "could have been a full-blown disaster had one of those animals attacked a child on the playground," the governor said.

Law-enforcements officials were forced to shoot 48 animals. Two others were presumed eaten by larger animals. Six survivors are being held in quarantine at the Columbus Zoo.

jvardon@dispatch.com

ajohnson@dispatch.com

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