Ohio considers ban on exotic-animal ownership
It made international headlines. The release of 56 wild and exotic animals last October from a farm near Zanesville, Ohio, brought the attention of animal lovers across the world to the small town. Forty-nine of the animals were killed by local police.
Ohio Sen. Troy Balderson, whose district includes Zanesville, says, “The incident brought to light the fact that Ohio had no laws to regulate the ownership of dangerous and wild animals.” Ohio is one of eight U.S. states without such a law.
Balderson is now sponsoring SB 310, which would place Ohio among the 29 states with some type of ban on owning wild animals. (An additional 13 states allow ownership of exotic animals but require owners to obtain a license.) SB 310 would prohibit the purchase of dangerous wildlife, including primates. In addition, owners of wild animals would face strict permitting standards and be banned from breeding the animals.
The bill has the support of Republican Gov. John Kasich and the state departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture.
David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, says his agency “would develop the housing, feeding and fencing requirements for wild animals [by] taking into consideration existing standards adopted by zoos and the federal Animal Welfare Act. Applicants would also have to have a plan of action in case of an escape.”
The animals would have to be neutered, registered with the state and implanted with a microchip. Owners would be required to obtain wildlife-shelter permits costing between $500 and $2,000 annually and have liability insurance of $250,000 or more.
Balderson says most people who own wild animals are probably already meeting many of the proposed standards; however, the Zanesville man who released the animals last year would have been prohibited from ownership due to a prior felony conviction.
Laws across the Midwest addressing exotic-pet ownership have increased significantly over the last decade. Public safety concerns like that in Zanesville often motivate the enactment of such laws, so regulations differ for various animals (see graphic).
Nearly every nondomestic animal — from ferrets to wolf hybrids — is regulated in some jurisdiction. However, all state laws banning ownership exclude zoos, circuses, research facilities and certified sanctuaries; Ohio’s bill also excludes schools that own a wild animal as their mascot.
SB 310 opponents were concerned that the standards for housing and care would be set so high and impossible to meet. They pointed out that the U.S. Animal Welfare Act already regulates breeders, dealers and caretakers of animals. Many spoke of the animals as being “part of their family,” and said they were encouraged that the proposal at least does not completely ban ownership.
Carolyn Orr serves as CSG Midwest staff liaison to the Midwestern Legislative Conference Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The committee’s co-chairs are North Dakota Sen. Tim Flakoll and Kansas Sen. Carolyn McGinn.