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For Immediate Release: 07/21/06

Another incident involving dangerous exotic animals renews call for immediate legislative action

Columbus, OH — The Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization, renews its call to legislators to immediately ban the ownership of dangerous wild and exotic animals in Ohio. Incidents involving dangerous wild animals kept as pets are on the rise in Ohio. Last weekend three wolves reportedly escaped from Robert Pitt’s home in Hanover, OH, and attacked a neighbor’s dog before they were shot to death. Pitt holds a USDA license to own exotic animals, despite previous complaints by neighbors.

Other recent incidents include the May mauling of an Orwell, OH, woman by a USDA-licensed neighbor’s escaped bear and a fire at the home of Lorenza Pearson’s that killed a bear cub and two tiger cubs, among other animals. Lorenza Pearson is a USDA-licensed exotic animal owner and is currently on trial for 953 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act that have taken place from February 1997 through February 2006.

API began calling on Ohio legislators to act on the public safety and animal welfare concerns it documented in a recent investigation into the state of exotic animal ownership and oversight in Ohio. In the last four months, API has filed five complaints with the USDA regarding federal Animal Welfare Act violations at five Ohio facilities documented in the investigation.

“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,” says Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of API. “These incidents, while extremely unfortunate, only corroborate our findings: the USDA is incapable of regulating these owners and the care of these animals. State legislation is the answer.”

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

“The owners of these facilities are playing roulette with people’s lives,” says Thew. “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.”

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 upon request.

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Contact:
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-267-7266

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