Ohio: Don't Treat Wild Animals as Pets

Ohio Residents: Take Action After Exotic Animal MassacreUpdate
May 23, 2012:
Thank you to everyone in Ohio who sent a message to their state representative! The Ohio House passed the bill on May 21 with a vote of 87-9, and it is now on its way to Governor John Kasich, who has agreed to sign it.

Use the Governor’s comment form to thank him for agreeing to sign SB 310/HB 483 to ban new ownership of exotic animals.

In October 2011, Terry Thompson intentionally released over 50 exotic animals from his “farm” and then took his own life. Sheriff’s deputies tracked down and shot the animals to protect the public. At the conclusion of the massacre, the pile of carcasses included: 18 tigers, 17 African lions, six black bears, one baboon, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions, and two wolves. Thompson had previous convictions for cruelty to animals and possession of illegal firearms.

This tragedy highlights the need for a state law to ban ownership of exotic or dangerous animals. Currently anyone may keep exotic animals in Ohio, one of only eight states that have no law regulating the possession of exotic animals.

A bill introduced in the state legislature, SB 310/ HB 483, would ban the acquisition, sale, and breeding of restricted species. People who already possess restricted species would be required to register their animals with the state within 60 days of the passage of the bill and then to obtain a permit by January 1, 2014. After that time, local humane societies would be able to seize animals if the owner does not have a permit. (Exempt facilities will include zoos and aquariums, research facilities, circuses, wildlife rehabilitation facilities, and a veterinarian that is providing temporary veterinary care.) If passed, the new law would:

  • Prohibit new possession of dangerous wild animals
  • Prohibit all sales and transfers of dangerous wild animals
  • Authorize officials to inspect dangerous wild animals already in someone’s possession

Keeping wild and exotic animals as pets threatens public health and safety as well as animal welfare. Wild animals can attack, they can spread disease, and the average citizen cannot provide proper care for a wild animal. Taxpayers and local officials bear a high financial burden when dangerous animals escape or when they are seized due to cruelty and neglect. As the tragedy in Zanesville so starkly illustrates, while the unregulated trade in exotic animals puts people at risk, it is the animals who most often pay the highest price.

Take Action!

Please contact your state representative and members of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee today to urge them to support HB 483 to ban possession of dangerous wild animals. The Ohio Senate passed SB 310 but the House companion bill, HB 483, is stalled in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The bill is opposed by exotic animal owners who are trying to kill the bill in the House. Governor Kasich has indicated his intent to sign the bill if it comes to his desk.

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