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For Immediate Release: 06/19/06

Public at risk until legislation put in place to ban ownership of dangerous wild animals

Bear mauling heightens statewide community concern in wake of investigation warning of risks to public safety

Columbus, OH — The Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization, is calling upon legislators to ban the ownership of dangerous wild and exotic animals in Ohio. The mauling of Rachel Supplee by an escaped bear and API’s recent Ohio investigation prove these animals pose widespread threats to public safety.

Over the course of its investigation, API documented Ohio wild animal owners allowing people to have direct contact with dangerous animals, such as tigers; inadequate caging allowing for the possibility of animal escape; and safety barriers reckless owners failed to properly secure, giving animals such as bears and lions direct access to visitors. API also recorded interviews with owners admitting to attacks that had happened and the level of danger such animals pose. Examples include:

“She bit me couple of times before she really got me, really hurt me ... if you go in there and just turn your back on her and walk out, sooner or later she’ll attack you.” (Owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, Ohio, on being attacked by a bear at the facility)

“Oh yeah, I’ve got bit ... The whole side of my finger got taken off here last time, like this far down ... down to the bone ... real bad.” He did not go to the hospital, claiming: “If you go to the hospital, then they want to know what bit you and then they come down and put the animal to sleep ... you can’t tell too many people.” (Worker at Stump Hill Farm, Ohio, on being bitten by a bear at the facility)

“We have provided clear, documented evidence that the private ownership of wild and exotic animals presents a real danger to neighbors, communities, and the public at large. The owners of these facilities are playing roulette with people’s lives,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “For the safety of unsuspecting residents across Ohio, the legislature must act immediately to prohibit the most dangerous wild and exotic animals from being kept in private hands before another tragedy occurs.”

Ohio is one of only 12 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as cougars, tigers, bears, primates, and dangerous reptiles. API is currently working with two Ohio state legislators to draft legislation that addresses the public safety issues surrounding the keeping of these dangerous animals. We urge the remaining legislators to support these measures when they are introduced.

Ohio has seen at least 11 serious incidents involving exotic animals in the last five years, not including unreported attacks. The American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Animal Control Association, and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), including the five AZA facilities located in Ohio, each oppose the private ownership of certain exotic animals.

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.

B-roll footage and still photos available; email press@api4animals.org.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205

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