MEDINA, Ohio (AP) — A judge has dismissed a civil case by a northeast Ohio couple who want to keep their toothless, 41-year-old black bear despite not getting a required state permit.
The court could have jurisdiction to consider an injunction if the animal were seized, but it can't appropriately address that yet because the state hasn't tried to remove the bear, a Medina County judge said in his ruling late last week. The dismissal would allow for the couple to file the complaint again if the bear were seized.
Jeffrey and Debra Gillium of Lodi have argued the caged male bear, Archie, is old and unlikely to escape. They said they weren't adequately notified about the law and that moving or tranquilizing the bear would threaten his life.
Their attorney says he remains hopeful about reaching a compromise for the Gilliums to keep Archie.
"This is an isolated bear, and he's been around a long time," attorney John Oberholtzer told the Northeast Ohio Media Group. "Is anybody at any great disadvantage if he's allowed to be there until he passes away?"
The Ohio Department of Agriculture says the Gilliums' permit application was submitted in February, more than a year after the state deadline, and the bear wasn't registered and microchipped as required.
The state indicated it would deny their permit, and the Gilliums appealed. A hearing is scheduled in late June.
The hearing officer will issue a recommendation to the department's director, whose decision could be challenged in court, ODA spokeswoman Erica Hawkins told The Medina Gazette. That means the process to determine whether the bear is seized could take months, even after an order from the director.
"The Gilliums are in possession of a dangerous wild animal, so technically, per the statute, the department would have the authority to take the animal right away," Hawkins said. "But with the court's involvement, there's a lot of variables at play."