By Jo Ingles
COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio state lawmakers on Tuesday approved restrictions on exotic animal ownership that were pressed by officials after a man released dozens of dangerous animals from his farm and then killed himself last fall, touching off a big game hunt to quell a panic.
The Ohio House voted 87 to 9 to approve restrictions and the Senate quickly concurred. The bill next goes to Governor John Kasich, who has indicated that he will sign it.
Ohio is one of a handful of states that do not restrict ownership of exotic animals and attempts to craft legislation have drawn criticism from private animal owners as too tough and from animal rights activists as too weak.
Kasich said in a statement that Ohio was "erecting sensible safeguards that help protect the public from dangerous wild animals and help ensure animals are treated humanely."
The House removed some species of small monkeys and lemurs from the list, would permit only lawmakers to add to the list of banned or restricted animals and reduced the minimum amount of insurance required to keep animals.
A critic of the proposal, Republican Representative Terry Boose, said, however, that it would not likely prevent what happened in October, infringed on private property rights and potentially could regulate people out of business.
Last October, Terry Thompson released 56 animals from their cages on his farm near Zanesville in rural Ohio before shooting himself, touching off a local panic and a big game hunt for the lions, tigers, bears, leopards and other animals.
Law enforcement officials killed 49 of the animals, one was presumed eaten and the other six were taken to the Columbus Zoo, where one of them, a leopard, later died.
The remaining animals - two leopards, a bear and two monkeys - were turned over in early May to Thompson's widow, Marian Thompson, who returned them to the farm. Zoo officials objected to returning the animals but had no power to keep them.
(Additional reporting by Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by David Bailey and Eric Walsh)