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For Immediate Release: 12/18/06

Animal Protection Organizations Call for Exotic Pet Ban in Ohio

Tragic death of a Hamilton County man by his pet python demonstrates the risk to public safety

Columbus, OH — The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Animal Protection Institute (API) expressed concern and renewed their calls for Ohio to prohibit the private ownership of dangerous wild animals after a Hamilton County man was killed by his pet python on Saturday.

“This is another tragic incident that could have been avoided,” said Dean Vickers, Ohio state program coordinator for The HSUS. “Keeping wild animals in our communities is simply too dangerous to public safety and to the welfare of the animals. We urge Ohio lawmakers to take action before the next person is injured or killed. Wild animals belong in the wild.”

“There is no reason for members of the general public to keep wild animals as pets without any oversight,” said Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs at API. “It’s a horrible life for animals and an accident waiting to happen. The question is — how many accidents have to happen before legislators act to protect the public?”

Most states regulate the private possession of dangerous exotic animals. Ohio has no statewide restrictions, though some local communities have enacted bans. Legislation introduced by Representative George Distel (HR 643) and endorsed by API and The HSUS would require owners of wild and dangerous animals including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, wolf-dog hybrids, monkeys, and large pythons to get permits and to house the animals safely and securely. API and The HSUS strongly support HR 643 as a significant improvement and also urge lawmakers to prohibit the private possession of wild animals altogether.

Other incidents demonstrate the risks captive wild animals pose to public health and safety. Earlier this month, a boy lost part of his finger when he put his hand into a bear’s cage at his grandfather’s ranch in Tuscarawas County. In May, a woman was mauled by a bear who escaped from a USDA-licensed breeder in Ashtabula County. On October 16, a USDA veterinarian inspecting a Summit County facility accused of violating the Animal Welfare Act was injured when a tiger reached out of a cage and grabbed her arm. On October 30, a Butler County man was bitten by his pet macaque monkey, which he received that day. These monkeys are known to carry the deadly Herpes B virus. Venomous snakes kept as pets killed an Ohio man in 2003 and woman in 2004. Earlier this year, an Indiana man was killed by his pet reticulated python.

API works to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API is a nationally recognized leader on exotic animal legislation and assists states in drafting and passing legislation. API also manages a Primate Sanctuary that is currently home to more than 400 primates, many of whom were rescued from abusive or exploitative private ownership situations. For more information, visit www.api4animals.org.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest animal protection organization with nearly 10 million members and constituents including more than 300,000 in Ohio. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammals, animals in research, equine protection and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy and field work. The nonprofit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives and offices across the country including Columbus. On the web at www.hsus.org.

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Contact:
Dean Vickers, The Humane Society of the United States, 614-607-7139
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205

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