Ohio governor takes steps on exotic animals

Reuters News

10/21/2011 5:43:49 PM - Reuters News

By Jo Ingles

COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio Governor John Kasich on Friday called for a temporary moratorium on the sale of dangerous wild animals after a collector caused a panic by releasing dozens of lions, tigers, bears and other animals.

But a leading critic said Kasich's steps were inadequate, and he should have announced an emergency ban on the sale of exotic animals.

The Republican governor acted to calm public alarm over dangerous predatory animals roaming rural Ohio until they were shot dead by police.

Kasich earlier this year let lapse a rule issued by his Democratic predecessor that restricted private breeding and purchase of exotic animals and banned those convicted of animal cruelty from owning such beats. Kasich said the rule was not enforceable.

Ohio is one of seven states that does not restrict ownership of such exotic animals. The others are North and South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Nevada and Wisconsin.

The order Kasich signed on Friday directs the inspection of licensed holders of dangerous wild species native to Ohio, and for state officials to identify facilities that could house captured or seized animals.

He also directed a state task force to recommend legislation by November 30 covering the import, regulation and licensing of dangerous wild animals. He ordered state agencies to find out where dangerous non-native animals are held.

"You don't do it on the back of a napkin," Kasich said. "You don't do it where it is just willy nilly. We will do it appropriately."

But the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, called the order inadequate and said he was worried that the task force recommendations would not be tough enough.

"The governor should have imposed an emergency order to forbid the sale and acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets or roadside attractions," Pacelle said.

Residents in parts of rural Ohio were told to stay indoors and schools put on lockdown after Terry Thompson, 62, apparently released 56 animals from his collection on Tuesday and then killed himself at his farm near Zanesville.

Authorities hunted down and killed 49 of the animals and buried them on Thompson's property. Three leopards, a young grizzly bear and two macaque monkeys were recaptured and sent to the Columbus Zoo animal hospital.

The animals shot dead included 18 Bengal tigers, which are endangered, and numerous adult lions.

Federal law regulates the interstate transport of big cats, but states regulate their ownership. A similar federal law on the transport of primates failed to pass Congress.

(Additional reporting by Jim Leckrone; Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)