Ohio Legislative Update details animal related bills that are in progress.

The OAAO Report Card rates elected officials in how they support or work against animal owners.

From the OAAO December 2011 Newsletter (reprinted with permission)

Please click on the following link to see the "Final Report" that was given to the Governor on November 30 following the final meeting of the Governor's Task Force on exotic animal ownership in Ohio.
http://ohiodnr.com/downloads/FINALREPORT-1 13011.pdf

As you read through this document, keep in mind that this is not what will be submitted to the legislature; it is simply a recommendation. However, as you can see, it is not something OAAO will be supporting. We will in fact be opposing the legislation if it's anything like what's contained in this "final report".

Contrary to what's been hinted at in the media and what's apparently being indicated by some in the Governor's office, the stakeholders did not vote unanimously to support these regulations; in fact, we did not vote on them at all. We discussed, we agreed on some things and disagreed on others, and then we moved on. An "Executive Summary" was presented to the stakeholders at the beginning of the group's final meeting; we had no opportunity to review it ahead of time. We did not go through it line by line like we had been doing at all of the previous meetings. The facilitators asked if there were any questions. There were many. Those who objected to any part of it were told to fight it out in the legislature. And that's exactly what we intend to do.

If you've not yet contacted your State Representative and State Senator, you need to do so immediately; and we would ask that you email us at oaao@windstream.net to let us know what sort of response you get from them. We are working with some of the legislators, but it'll be helpful to know what sort of response you're getting from your own legislators.
Keep in mind that the "Final Report" 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.
Some of our members who have called the Governor's Office of Constituent Affairs (614- 466-3555) have been given some conflicting information. One member was told that the Governor does not support a ban. Of course, we know that is completely untrue; the Governor has made it very clear that he intends to rid Ohio of these animals.
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.

Some notes from the final stakeholder meeting:

Farm Bureau spoke up, opposing the 2-year grandfathering period. Previously, we had talked about grandfathering the animals for their lifetime. There were no objections to the lifetime grandfathering; regardless, whoever put the Executive Summary together decided that these animals needed to be disposed of in 2 years rather than allowed to live out their life with their current owner. Farm Bureau favors owners' being able to keep the animals until the date they would be banned, provided they meet the permit requirements; but Farm Bureau feels 2 years is much too short. Owners might feel inclined to go underground or even release the animals. Two years is too short of a transition period.

Carolyn McKinney from USDA asked whether the Mt. Hope Auction would be allowed to sell these animals until 2014. Dr. Forshey replied that the auction hasn't been selling most of these animals anyway, and the auction has been excellent to work with.

Henry Heffner (OAAO) asked if the new standards would be applied to research. Dr. Forshey answered that research would be exempt. Andy from USDA Wildlife Services mentioned that "research" would need to be narrowly defined. Scott Zody indicated the summary would be posted on the ODNR website and public comment would be taken for 2 weeks.

ODA representatives kept mentioning "casual ownership" as something that needs to be banned. Polly Britton (OAAO) pointed out that the USDA licensed facilities are not casual owners, they are business entities; and they should be exempt from the bill, just as the AZA and ZAA zoos are exempt, and the researchers are exempt. They are all inspected by the same agency (USDA). Dr. Forshey (ODA) replied that the new Ohio permit requirements would be stricter than USDA's; we asked then, if this is a public safety and animal welfare issue, why not allow everyone who's able to meet those stricter requirements to have a license and be able to possess, breed and sell the animals forever. Dr. Forshey replied that they'd need to restrict who the animals are sold to; we said, no problem. We already have to report that with our USDA and ODNR permits, so stipulate that the animals can only be sold to other licensed owners.

A representative from the Wilds spoke up and said reptile owners are not covered under USDA. (This is true, but if they're able to meet the new Ohio regulations, they ought to be allowed to have the animals and breed and sell them just like anyone else who meets the permit requirements.)

The executive summary lumps all the restricted animals together; there's no longer a Class I and Class II. Scott Zody indicated constrictor snakes that grow to less than 12 ft will not be on the list. He also indicated that feral hogs would be on the list. Several of the stakeholders expressed concern about how feral hogs would be defined. ODA representatives mentioned that they'd have to consider the hunting preserves, where the hogs only leave the preserve when they're dead.

Scott Zody indicated the statutory language will not be shared at this time. The next document we'll see is what comes out of LSC (Legislative Services Commission). Jim Zehringer indicated that a "general framework" would be submitted to the General Assembly. (The stakeholders therefore are still in the dark as to what's actually being submitted to the legislature.)
Dr. Forshey asked the other facilitators if we ought to vote on whether to submit this Executive Summary. Scott Zody said "no, our work as a body is done."
Michelle Holdgreve (OVMA lobbyist) indicated OVMA can't endorse this today but will need to "vet" it with their membership.

Again, the sequence of events is:

  • Stakeholder meetings
  • Committee (public) hearings in both House & Senate
  • Vote by full House & Senate
  • Signed by Governor least keep the list of animals down to what ex- Governor Strickland, Farm Bureau and HSUS originally agreed to; but it doesn't seem to be working, as others in the group favor a larger list. So far, OAAO seems to be the only stakeholder verbalizing that they oppose this expansion of ODNR's authority. We are doing our best to get that into the minutes, as we expect ODNR to tell the legislature that the stakeholders reached a "consensus" that they do favor the expansion.

Representative Adams suggested I schedule a meeting as soon as possible with the following legislators so that they too can be on the lookout and be prepared to help us:

  • Representative Dave Hall, Chairman of House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee
  • Representative Bob Peterson, Vice-Chairman of House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, and past President of Ohio Farm Bureau
  • Representative Tim Derickson, House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee member
  • Representative John Carey, House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee member
  • Representative Bruce Goodwin, House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee member
  • Representative Al Landis, House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee member
  • Representative Margaret Ruhl, House Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee member
  • Senator Cliff Hite, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Environment & Natural Resources Committee
  • Senator Troy Balderson
  • Senator Gayle Manning, member of Senate Agriculture, Environment& Natural Resources Committee
  • Senator Jason Wilson, member of Senate Agriculture, Environment & Natural Resources Committee and Ranking Minority Member

Polly Britton Legislative Aide

In a previous phone conversation with Rep.Adams, he had suggested I also contact Dr. Jason Johnston, past President of the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association. Dr. Johnston is here in Miami County where I live. OVMA has a representative attending the stakeholder meetings, and she has indicated OVMA has some concerns with private ownership of certain animals including primates.
Rep. Adams' new Legislative Aide is Arielle Adkins.