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For Immediate Release: 05/04/12

Born Free USA Leads Initiative to Protect New Yorkers from Potentially Dangerous Wild Animals

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is working with the New York State Legislature to pass a bill to protect the public from potentially dangerous exotic animals by enacting stricter regulations on exotic animal ownership.

Introduced this week by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and Senate Environmental Conservation Chairman Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), A10041/S7078 requires exotic animal owners to pay for damages or expenses incurred when their animals escape or are intentionally released. The bill also requires owners to immediately report animal escapes to local police and animal control.

“Last fall, close to 60 dangerous exotic animals were released by their owner in the tragic Zanesville, Ohio, case, putting the public in frightening and unnecessary danger. The burden on law enforcement and taxpayers was unprecedented and the state was unprepared,” said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “There is an epidemic in this country of owning wild animals as ‘pets’ and it must stop. This bill provides a reasonable safeguard for New Yorkers who live in communities where potentially dangerous exotic animals are kept in private hands. We are grateful to Assemblymember Rosenthal and Senator Grisanti for their leadership in introducing this urgently needed public safety and animal welfare measure.”

New York State currently bans private possession of exotic animals, with an exemption for people who had possession prior to Jan. 1, 2005. However, the law does not provide a deterrent for intentional or negligent release of these animals, nor does it provide a means of support for local law enforcement when responding to these actions.

Rosenthal remarked, “New York State has seen a series of wild animal releases and injuries recently, including the attack of an upstate New York woman by a capuchin monkey that escaped from its owner’s home and entered the woman’s yard. The monkey bit the woman after she reached to protect her child. No one can forget the mauling of a woman by a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut; she was blinded, had her nose, ears and hands severed, and received a total face transplant.

“Although these animals may be beloved pets, they are first and foremost wild animals, and owners of exotic animals must be held accountable when these animals escape or are negligently released. I look forward to continuing to work with Born Free USA on this important issue, and I call on the Assembly and Senate to approve this legislation.”

Grisanti added, “When dangerous wild and exotic animals escape or are set loose, local law enforcement and taxpayers are ultimately left to bear the financial burden of recapturing the animal and protecting the community. This legislation seeks to lift this burden and provide the public with reasonable safeguards.”
Both bills now head to their respective committees on environmental conservation.

Born Free USA tracks numerous reports of dangerous exotic “pets” who are intentionally released or escape. In New York, a six-and-a-half-foot-long boa constrictor recently was found by a homeowner under his home in Enfield; a Putnam Lake woman died after apparently being bitten by her loose “pet” black mamba; and two separate attacks by loose “pet” capuchin monkeys occurred in less than four months — first at a Catskill bed-and-breakfast and then in Oneida Castle.

Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to North America the message of “compassionate conservation,” the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will Travers, now chief executive officer of both organizations. Born Free’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at: http://www.bornfreeusa.org; twitter http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; Facebook http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

Media contact: For Born Free USA: Rodi Rosensweig, publicrelations@bornfreeusa.org, (203) 270-8929.

For Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal: Nicholas E. Smith, Communications Director, smithn@assembly.state.ny.us, (212) 873-6368.

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