May 22, 2012
COLUMBUS — Legislation that would tighten regulations on owning exotic animals in Ohio was headed Tuesday to the governor for his expected signature, months after authorities were forced to shoot dozens of lions, tigers and other dangerous wildlife released from a farm last fall.
The measure would ban new ownership of exotic animals, while allowing current owners to keep their creatures by obtaining a new state-issued permit by 2014 and adhering to strict new caretaking standards.
Facilities accredited by some national zoo groups would be exempt from the bill, along with sanctuaries and research institutions.
Ohio’s restrictions on exotic pets are among the nation’s weakest. Efforts to strengthen the law took on new urgency after Terry Thompson released 50 animals — including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers — from his eastern Ohio farm in Zanesville in October before he committed suicide. Authorities killed 48 of the animals as a public safety measure. Two others were believed to have been eaten by other animals.
The Ohio House passed the measure 87-9 with changes on Tuesday, and the Senate agreed to the revisions, which included lower permit fees and a lower minimum insurance requirement than the version senators passed last month.
Permit fees for bears, tigers and other dangerous animals would begin at $250. And insurance policies for the creatures could range from $200,000 to as high as $1 million, depending on the number of animals.
Owners would be required to pass a background check and show inspectors that they adhere to care standards and have taken safety measures such as fencing their property. Signs would have to be posted on the property to alert people there were dangerous animals on the premises.
The bill cleared the Legislature after hours of testimony from distraught owners who had lined up in hearings to express concerns about having to get rid of the family pet or pay too high of a price to keep it, among other issues.
The Columbus Zoo and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation are among the measure’s supporters.