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For Immediate Release: 11/01/06

Monkey attack renews call for immediate legislative action banning the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals

Liberty Township, OH — The Animal Protection Institute (API), a national animal advocacy organization, is today renewing calls on Ohio legislators to immediately ban the ownership of dangerous wild and exotic animals after a Liberty Township man was attacked by his pet monkey on Monday.

API has repeatedly called on 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. This investigation spawned a report by the ABC news show, “20/20,” which aired Friday, October 27, and which documented similar concerns at facilities in Ohio, where people, even children, were allowed direct contact with dangerous wild animals, animals were kept in substandard conditions, and animals were treated inhumanely.

“API has provided clear, documented evidence that the private ownership of dangerous exotic animals presents a real danger to the public,” says Nicole Paquette, Director of Legal and Government Affairs at API. “These incidents continue to corroborate our findings: the USDA is incapable of regulating private facilities and there are no state laws overseeing private owners. State legislation is the only answer.”

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. Ohio is one of only 11 states with no laws prohibiting the private possession of exotic animals such as wolves, cougars, tigers, bears, primates, and dangerous reptiles.

“We’re hoping that this, and other recent incidents, spurs the legislature to hold a hearing prior to the end of the 2006 legislative session,” says Paquette. “There is absolutely no reason for members of the general public to be keeping primates, lions, tigers, and bears as pets without any oversight or restriction. It’s a horrible life for animals and in terms of public safety, an accident waiting to happen. The question is — how many accidents have to happen before legislators act to protect the public rather than the interests of a small group of individuals?”

Other recent incidents include the May 2006 mauling of an Orwell, Ohio, woman by a USDA-licensed neighbor’s escaped bear. In July 2006, three wolves of a USDA-licensed owner escaped from a home in Hanover, Ohio, and attacked a neighbor’s dog before they were shot to death. And, on October 16, a USDA veterinarian was attacked by a tiger owned by Lorenza Pearson, a USDA-license holder awaiting the outcome of his recent trial on more than 950 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

In the last seven months, API has filed five complaints with the USDA regarding AWA violations at five Ohio facilities.

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 from API’s investigation are available upon request.

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

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