Last November, a tragic event in Muskingum County made major news in Ohio and across the country. Before committing suicide, a Zanesville man freed dozens of exotic animals from his own private compound. The released animals represented a spectrum of dangerous species, including tigers, lions and bears, among others. This emergency ended in the deaths of 50 animals, a sad, but unavoidable conclusion to the event in order to preserve public safety.

The Zanesville tragedy sparked a flurry of activity in the Ohio General Assembly. At that point in time, there was no state law on record governing the ownership of exotic animals. This inadequacy set in motion a legislative process that would ultimately result in Senate Bill 310.

The legislation identifies bears, large cats, nonhuman primates, and other animals as “dangerous wild animals,” and January 1, 2014 will mark the prohibition of unlicensed personal possession of such animals. Before this date, any individual who claims ownership of a dangerous animal will be required to register it with the Director of Agriculture. After January 2014, a permit will be needed to maintain ownership of dangerous wild animals.

Senate Bill 310 passed through the House with strong bipartisan support, and Governor Kasich signed it into law in early June. I am extremely proud of the thorough investigation undertaken by the General Assembly in crafting the bill, and especially by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, on which I am privileged to serve.

During its time in the House chambers, our committee heard many hours of testimony, taking each perspective into consideration. Furthermore, the state legislature worked in conjunction with animal owners, animal experts and additional interested groups. The result of all these efforts is a comprehensive bill that protects the safety of Ohioans without trampling on our personal rights.

In the future, Ohio no longer will have lax regulations on wild animal ownership. Last November was an unfortunate wake up call to a weak point in our state law, but Senate Bill 310 has shored up this legislative shortcoming.


Post a Comment