Senate Bill 310 regulates the sale and ownership of exotic animals in Ohio
Siberian Tiger Painting by talented artist Jason Morgan
Columbus, Ohio Sep 22, 2012
Signed by Gov. John Kasich, the law, which takes effect in 90 days, bans the acquisition, sale and breeding of restricted species in Ohio as of Jan. 1, 2014.
The mandatory registration of banned species by current owners of banned animals will begin when the bill takes effect.
People who currently own restricted list (banned) animals can keep their animals as long as the animals live, if they register them with the state and follow regulations on caging, signage and care.
On the restricted (banned) list are large cats, bears, elephants, certain monkeys, rhinos, alligators, crocodiles, anacondas and pythons longer than 12 feet, certain vipers and venomous snakes.
There are several classifications of permits, including “wildlife shelter,” which will cost $250 to $1,000, depending on the number of animals. Owners must also buy liability insurance or a surety bond of $200,000 to $1 million.
Ohio has been one of seven states that have no restrictions on private ownership of exotic animals. The law will ban new ownership of specific wild animals, including big cats, bears, hyenas, gray wolves, some primates, alligators and crocodiles. People who already own these animals can keep them as long as they obtain permits and follow other rules.
In October 2011, in Zanesville, Ohio, unfortunately, 18 rare Bengal tigers were shot and killed after tigers, ions and bears escaped from a “wild animals preserve” near the highway.
When the carnage was over, 49 animals were slaughtered, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, a pair of grizzlies, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon. When I heard this on the news, I was so sad that the owner of this so called “wild animals preserve” (farm) was in such an agitated and depressed state of mind that he purposely let these animals out, before turning upon himself.
ABC News’ wildlife expert Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of Columbus Zoo, who advised County sheriff Matt Lutz during the crisis, said it was especially heartbreaking to see so many Bengal tigers killed when they are on the verge of extinction.
Terry Thompson, 61, was recently released from prison after serving one year on federal weapons charges. According to investigators he has been cited in the past for animal abuse and neglect.
Hanna said that the officers who had to kill the animals were struggling with what they had to do. He said, “Going home and saying to their kids they had to shoot a tiger, one of the rarest animals in the world, I wouldn’t want to be one of these guys, having to tell my kids.”
The IUCN Red List of Threatened species estimates there are fewer than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild as of 2010, due in large part to poaching and habitat loss. It lists these animals as Endangered (as are the Siberian Tigers).
The new law will at least ensure licensing of wild and exotic animal keeping and breeding, and micro-chipping, and will permit inspections which can reveal if the animals are being properly cared for. Lutz says the legislation will help authorities track the big cats and conduct inspections.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Director of Communications, Erica Hawkins, has said that anyone who does not register their animals by the deadline of Nov. 5 will be in violation of Ohio law. As of January 2014, the state will be allowed to remove any animals from owners who have not registered them.
THE PROBLEM WITH US FEDERAL LAWS
Why did Terry Thompson possess endangered Tigers?
In Australia, regulations on keeping exotic animals are tightly controlled under federal legislation, which make it difficult, if not impossible, to import exotic animals and keep them in a private zoo in Australia. In the USA, wildlife laws vary greatly from state to state, and some (including Ohio up until now) have very relaxed laws regarding the keeping of exotic species.
In the United States of America, three federal laws regulate exotic animals — the Endangered Species Act, the Public Health Service Act, and the Lacey Act. However, these laws primarily regulate the importation of exotic animals into the United States, and do not regulate acquisition or breeding within the US, or private possession.
The “Born Free” site explains the laws in the USA well.
Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) it is illegal to possess, sell, or buy an endangered species regardless of whether a transaction took place over the Internet or not.
However, the ESA does not enforce private possession or regulate possession of other species, it merely allows the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) to prosecute individuals who illegally possess endangered species.
The twist is that Terry Thompson’s tigers were classified as “generic tigers” or “hybrid tigers” (sub-species of Bengal Tigers that have been interbred) and NOT as endangered pure-blood Bengal Tigers, so it was not illegal for him to possess them!! The law is an ass sometimes!
Read about the Bengal Tiger on the Blue Planet site