Ohio’s “Dangerous Wild Animal Act” makes for a good start, however we still have a long way to go
We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the unforgettable Zanesville, Ohio tragedy when a backyard exotic animal owner took his own life just after releasing the 38 big cats and other dangerous exotics he had been keeping on his farm.
Thankfully, Ohio has made some progress since that horrific day: its historic Dangerous Wild Animal Act went into effect last week.
This means that Ohioans will no longer be allowed to acquire big cats and other dangerous exotics as pets, and individuals who currently own them are required to register the animals and comply with certain welfare standards. As a fellow Buckeye, I am proud of my home state for taking a progressive step forward to protect animals and communities.
But, we still have a long way to go.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s administration recently submitted a proposal for a short-term holding facility for exotic animals. At face value, the facility seems to be a step toward addressing the reality that exotic animals will seized from, and/or forfeited by, current owners who refuse to or cannot comply with the new law. The fact that it is estimated to be near $3.5 million and still requires funding, highlights yet another hugely burdensome economic consequence of keeping big cats and other exotics in private hands.
Meanwhile, the growing epidemic of U.S. big cat possession and breeding continues. Only 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted full bans on private ownership of big cats, though virtually all of those states exempt people who hold USDA licenses (many of whom are just pet owners abusing the system). Seven states (including West Virginia, just a short drive away from my office!) do not address private possession of exotics at all. Because of this regulatory patchwork, it is estimated that there could be up to 20,000 big cats in private ownership in the U.S., but no one knows exactly how many are being kept in private hands, under what conditions, and where. We need a federal standard. We need to pass the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 4122).
On September 20th, Zanesville sheriff Matthew Lutz will join IFAW as a special guest at a Congressional press conference to urge passage of the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act (H.R. 4122).