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For Immediate Release: 10/27/06

Ohio investigation spurs ABC News “20/20” report

Animal advocates call for state legislature to ban dangerous wild animals kept as pets

Columbus, OH — A national animal advocacy group’s investigation into the state of exotic animals kept as pets in Ohio spurred an in-depth investigation into the topic by the ABC news program, “20/20”, aired Friday, October 27.

In February 2006, the Animal Protection Institute (API) released the results of an extensive investigation into the largely unregulated private ownership of exotic wild animals kept as pets or used as attractions at unaccredited roadside zoos and menageries in Ohio. Ohio has no laws governing the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals.

“API’s investigation proves that when it comes to the ownership of dangerous exotic animals, including tigers, bears, and primates, there are serious animal welfare and public safety issues in Ohio,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs for API. “We’re glad that our footage spurred ‘20/20’ to also investigate this issue and we call on the USDA and state lawmakers to take immediate steps to protect the public before another person is seriously injured or killed. Our government officials can no longer just sit back and do nothing.”

API’s investigation exposed evidence of a widespread lack of concern for public safety and animal welfare by both private owners and federally-licensed facilities, and resulted in the filing of five USDA complaints against five of the Ohio facilities investigated.

API’s complaint against the Siberian Tiger Conservation Association resulted in a prompt response by the USDA, which is currently investigating the facility. This facility, whose license was revoked by the USDA more than five years ago because of at least 10 reported injuries by tigers, is still operating and directly endangering members of the public by allowing ”close encounters” where visitors are allowed direct, prolonged and unrestrained contact with tigers. The Siberian Tiger Conservation Association was also visited by “20/20” during its investigation.

Since 2005, when API began its investigation, dozens of people have been attacked, and many even killed, by exotic animals. On October 16, 2006, a tiger attacked a USDA veterinarian at an Ohio facility owned by Lorenza Pearson, whose son was mauled to death by a tiger and who is currently facing charges on more than 950 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

In the past two years, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Maryland have passed legislation banning the ownership of certain dangerous animals such as lion, tigers, bears, wolves, and primates, leaving Ohio as one of only 11 states with no regulations whatsoever.

API is currently working with Representative George Distel, who has introduced HR 643, a bill that regulates the private ownership of dangerous animals. The bill places significant restrictions on how these animals are to be housed and cared for.

“These exotic wild animals do not belong in our homes, neighborhoods, or at roadside zoos. It is irresponsible, unnecessary, and a disaster waiting to happen,” says Paquette. “For the safety of the animals, and the people around them, we urge the Ohio state Legislature to act immediately to end to the private ownership of dangerous, exotic animals by supporting HR 643. This is an industry out of control.”

API is a national nonprofit animal advocacy organization working to end animal cruelty and exploitation through legislation, litigation, and public education. API is a leader in the campaign to end the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals, and also manages a 186-acre Primate Sanctuary, 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.

Members of the media may access an API investigation press kit at www.api4animals.org/c1_presskits.php or by emailing press@api4animals.org.

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

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