Animal rights advocates say Governor Kasich and lawmakers are not doing enough to deal with problems involving exotic animals in Ohio. Statehouse correspondent Jo Ingles reports.
About a dozen people stand quietly outside the Ohio Statehouse, holding signs urging Governor Kasich to ban exotic animals in Ohio now. Matt Bruce with PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says a ban is necessary.
"It’s the only thing we can do to make sure future incidents like what happened in Zanesville doesn’t happen again and it’s also stops the cruelty that’s inherent in confining wild animals."
Bruce is talking about the situation last week. That’s when a private owner of wild exotic animals released tigers, lions, bears and more from their pens before killing himself. In the end, 59 animals were killed as deputies encountered the animals running loose outside the fence of the private farm. Bruce says private owners like this shouldn’t be allowed to have the animals in the first place. He says the state’s laws protecting animals and public safety are among the worst in the nation.
"Ohio is one of only a handful of states that has virtually no oversight over wild animals being privately held by citizens. And not surprisingly, Ohio is among the states with the highest number of deaths and injuries by captive wild animals."
Bruce has given Governor Kasich’s office a letter, requesting an immediate ban. And included in that letter is a list of ten places in Ohio where private owners are keeping exotic animals.
"And among these facilities is one in Massillon, Ohio where they keep all of their tigers in a cage that’s too small for the tigers and with no top. Many of these places have cages with holes big enough for the tigers to escape."
Bruce wants the state to check on the animals being kept in those locations. Just days ago, Governor Kasich signed an executive order that prods state agencies to more closely monitor private owners of exotic animals. And he pressed a task force working on a crackdown to speed up its work for a bill by the end of next month.
"Look I think we took a very good first step and believe me, we had no authority. You can’t just put out an order and have nothing grounded in the law."
Kasich says the task force is making headway to come up with something good.
"Let’s use the powers we have and let’s think through what we need to do to get a handle on this because we are an outlier on this and I’d like us to be a better leader on this whole thing."
Kasich finds the ownership of exotic animals somewhat baffling.
"I have a really hard time understanding why somebody ought to have a grizzly bear on their private compound or lions or Bengal Tigers. I just don’t get it. You know. But it’s a complicated issue. That’s kind of my gut on the whole thing. Exotic animals. Is that a cockatoo? A bird or something? That’s why you’ve got to sort through it."
Kasich says he’s working with Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo to better understand why someone should be allowed to own exotic animals.
"What Jack Hanna’s told me, you know you may have some breeders, you may have some circumstances where it’s legitimate for someone to have it but they clearly have to be qualified, they have to be certified."
Kasich says he hopes lawmakers can pass legislation on exotic animal ownership in the coming months. But for PETA’s Matt Bruce, that’s not soon enough. He wants an immediate ban on the ownership of wild animals.
"It’s too little too late as far as we are concerned, especially for the animals in Zanesville that were shot to death last week. In order to prevent this from happening again, we feel that the best possible thing to do is to implement an immediate ban on the ownership of wild animals."
Governor Kasich says he is not going to do that right now.