IFAW urges Ohio Gov. Kasich to sign strong big cats legislation

Last week, the Ohio legislature passed broad legislation banning the possession of big cats and other dangerous wildlife animals in the state, and sent the bill to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.

The move is a long time coming, and follows the horrible incident last fall in Zanesville, OH, where the owner of a backyard menagerie of big cats and other wild animals let the animals loose in the community before killing himself. The incident has since been dubbed the “Zanesville massacre,” since local police had no choice but to shoot and kill 46 of the 58 animals that were set free, including 38 big cats. 

The Ohio legislation takes a comprehensive approach, and includes some key features that make it more functional and likely to help address the problem than legislation that has been passed in other states.  First, it does not contain a blanket exemption for facilities licensed by the US Department of Agriculture, licenses that can be used by some big cat owners and breeders to get around state bans on keeping big cats as pets. 

Also, it not only requires current big cat owners to register their animals with state authorities if they want to keep them, but also requires proof of ability to manage and care for the animals, and have the animal’s microchipped so that they can be tracked and caught should they escape their enclosures.  It’s a smart, technology-focused provision that will help law enforcement keep communities safe.

Finally, the bill empowers local humane societies to become agents of the state in order to help enforce the ban on big cat and other dangerous animal possession and take care of unwanted or confiscated animals with the assistance of state wildlife sanctuaries.

Ohio is a welcome addition to the short list of states that have enacted comprehensive legislation for the protection of public safety, as well for the protection of animals that shouldn’t be kept in captivity in the first place. When they are, accredited zoos and lifetime sanctuaries are where they belong, not in backyards, basements, garages, and sheds. 

Unfortunately, most states, including some of Ohio's neighbors, don’t take such a progressive stance against the threat posed by dangerous animals in our communities. Therefore, IFAW not only encourages Ohio Gov. John Kasich to sign the bill immediately and help protect residents of the state from another Zanesville incident, but also urges the U.S. Congress to put forth a nationwide solution to a nationwide problem by passing H.R. 4122, the Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.

-- PT

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy