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For Immediate Release: 01/21/14

Born Free USA Supports Introduction of Bill “Prohibiting Possession of Wild and Exotic Animals” in West Virginia

West Virginia is one of only eight states that lack any substantive restrictions for wild and exotic animals kept by private individuals

Washington, DC -- Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, applauds West Virginia State Senator Bob Beach (D- Monongalia) for introducing S.B. 371 -- “Prohibiting Possession of Wild and Exotic Animals.” The bill seeks to improve animal welfare and protect the public from potentially dangerous exotic animals by enacting stricter regulations on exotic animal ownership. West Virginia is one of only eight states that lack any substantive restrictions for wild and exotic animals kept by private individuals, and Senator Beach’s bill would fix this glaring and dangerous legal oversight.

Adam Roberts, Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, said, “The exotic pet trade is immeasurably cruel to wild animals. These so-called ‘pets’ endure miserable conditions in captivity. They are usually locked up, isolated, and deprived of the ability to express their natural behaviors. Private owners often extract their teeth and fingernails, among other barbaric practices, in an attempt to ‘tame’ them. Wild animals belong in the wild and can never be tamed. We cannot allow animals to be mutilated in the name of so-called companionship.”

S.B. 371 would ban the private possession of all “wild and exotic animals” in West Virginia, which are defined as any animals other than domestics and livestock. Exotic animals owned prior to the enactment of this bill can be kept, as long as the owner obtains a permit. The bill is narrowly crafted to ensure that only private owners are affected. This bill does not apply to accredited exhibitors, nonprofits, animal control agencies, wildlife rehabilitators, veterinary clinics, sanctuaries, researchers, or educational institutions.

“It is time for West Virginia to follow the lead of 42 other states and pass legislation regulating exotic pet ownership,” said Roberts. “Senator Beach has made a powerful statement by introducing this bill, and I hope these long-overdue safeguards are implemented in West Virginia.”

These safeguards are crucial not only for animal welfare, but also for the protection of communities. Born Free USA maintains a database that tracks incidents involving exotic pets (www.bornfreeusa.org/database/exo_incidents.php). Since 2000, there have been at least seven reported incidents in West Virginia of exotic pets escaping and threatening public safety. In Huntington, a 13-year-old girl suffered injuries after being bitten by a “pet” capuchin monkey. In Berkeley County, another monkey who was suspected of having hepatitis B bit three children. Wild and exotic animals can not only injure people, but also pose a disease risk. Primates alone can transmit Ebola, tuberculosis, and herpes-B to humans.

Born Free USA is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. 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 America the message of “compassionate conservation” -- the vision of the U.K.-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 CEO 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 www.bornfreeusa.org; on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bornfreeusa; and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BornFreeUSA.

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

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