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For Immediate Release: 05/27/09

Ohio mountain lion mauling renews call for ban on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals

Lisbon, OH — Born Free USA, a leading national wildlife advocacy organization, is calling on Ohio legislators to immediately ban the ownership of dangerous exotic animals after a 10-year-old girl was mauled by a mountain lion kept as a pet in Columbiana County. According to media reports, the victim was airlifted to a Pittsburgh hospital. This is just one of many serious incidents involving injury by exotic animals in Ohio in recent years.

“Born Free USA has provided clear, documented evidence to Ohio officials showing that private ownership of dangerous exotic animals presents a real, and obviously ongoing, danger to the public,” said Nicole Paquette, Born Free USA senior vice president and general counsel. “These incidents continue to corroborate our findings: the federal government is incapable of regulating exotic animal facilities and state legislation is required to oversee private owners.”

Born Free USA has repeatedly called on legislators to act on the public safety and animal welfare concerns related to exotic animal possession. In the last four years, the organization has filed five complaints with the USDA regarding Animal Welfare Act violations at five Ohio facilities.

Other recent incidents in Ohio include the severing of a 4-year-old boy’s finger by a bear at the USDA-licensed Tuscawaras Wildlife Ranch, the near-fatal mauling of a woman by a USDA-licensed neighbor’s escaped bear, a man bitten by a monkey he had acquired as a pet and a USDA veterinarian attacked by a tiger owned by Lorenza Pearson, a USDA-license holder who at the time was on trial for more than 950 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Ohio is one of only nine states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as wolves, cougars, tigers, bears, primates, and dangerous reptiles.

“We’re hoping that these continued incidents spur the legislature to hold an immediate public hearing to discuss the serious public safety concerns surrounding the keeping of these animals in private hands,” said Paquette. “There is absolutely no reason for the general public to be keeping bears, lions, tigers, and primates as pets without any oversight or restriction. It’s a horrible life for animals and in terms of public safety, an accident waiting to happen.”

“The question is — how many accidents have to happen before legislators act to protect the public rather than the interests of a small group of individuals? There must be some accountability,” added Paquette.

Born Free USA is a leading national non-profit animal advocacy organization working to conserve and protect wildlife in the U.S. and globally, including operation of the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, which provides sanctuary to primates formerly kept as pets in private homes. More information on exotic animals in Ohio, including investigation images and video, can be found at www.bornfreeusa.org/a3b1_invest.php.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Born Free USA, 916.267.7266, press@bornfreeusa.org

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