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Opponents Of Exotic Animal Bill Prepare for Legal Battle

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Last year, it was hard to find anyone in Ohio who didn’t think some changes needed to be made to laws regarding private ownership of exotic animals. The incident near Zanesville where more than 4 dozen loose, roaming exotic animals were killed by law enforcement officials made international news prompting Ohio’s leaders to take action.

But some owners of exotics say the state is over-reacting in new legislation that’s been passed by the Ohio Senate and is now on its way to the Ohio house. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles reports.

Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Republican State Senator Troy Balderson says the tragedy in Zanesville last year shows why the state must take action on exotic animals now. He says his bill, which has been a work in progress for months now, has three goals.

Balderson: “To protect our citizens, to preserve legitimate law abiding citizens who care for their animals and to put standards in place to insure the safety of these animals.”

Balderson says his bill would not automatically force exotic animal owners to give up their pets.

Balderson: “If you own one of these animals, and are willing to meet the state standards, you can keep your animal by simply obtaining a wildlife shelter permit from the department of ag.”

But Anna Wilcox, a woman from Dayton who owns a small monkey, says it’s not that easy. She says she can’t meet the registration requirements and can’t afford the required insurance.

Wilcox: “The insurance policy 250 thousand on one animal is ridiculous. You have 50 thousand attacked each year from dogs killed. Are you going to make them carry insurance on their dogs? I mean anything that has teeth has the potential to harm anybody. I mean even a two year old child can bite. So are we going to ban pregnancy because of one bad person?”

Wilcox explains her monkey doesn’t have the ability to really hurt anyone.

Wilcox: “He don’t pose no more threat than a ferret. He’s one pound ten inches and that’s it.”

Wilcox says she’s unsure what she’ll do if this bill passes the house in this form….but she’s sure of one thing.

Wilcox: “I won’t get rid of him. I won’t. If I have to my husband will just move his company to another place.”

Schriebvogel: “I think it was a setup from the get go.”

That’s Joe Schreibvogel, President of the United States Zoological Association. He says exotic animal owners did not get a fair shake in this legislation and plans to fight the bill as it goes through the process. And if it passes in this form, he says his organization will file a lawsuit based on two arguments.

Schreibvogel: “If you want to be a sanctuary or a refuge, you now have to join this private group and the state cannot make you hand over your money to a private, non-profit group. That’s illegal. The second part will be they overrode our federal government of the USDA so having a federal license from the USDA does not exist in Ohio anymore without being a member of this private club.”

Exotic animal owners may fight this bill but they are up against one of Ohio’s most powerful officials-Governor John Kasich.

Kasich: “We don’t want to have a situation where people continue to have lions, bears, and tigers on their front lawn. It’s a transition to get us there.”

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