Bear attack renews call for immediate legislative action banning private ownership of dangerous exotic animals
House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee hearing to be held 12/06/06
Akron, 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 4-year-old boy’s finger was reportedly severed by a bear at the Tuscarawas Wildlife Ranch. This is the fourth serious incident involving injury by exotic animals in Ohio in the past six months.
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 recent report by the ABC news show, “20/20”, 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 state legislation is required to oversee private owners.”
In the last eight months, API has filed five complaints with the USDA regarding Animal Welfare Act violations at five Ohio facilities.
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. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will be hearing testimony from Representative Distel tomorrow. The Committee will decide whether to hold a public hearing on this bill.
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 these continued incidents spur the legislature to hold a public hearing to discuss the serious public safety concerns surrounding the keeping of these animals in private hands,” says Paquette. “There is absolutely no reason for the general public to be keeping bears, lions, tigers, and primates 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?” Paquette adds.
Other recent incidents in Ohio include the mauling of a woman by a USDA-licensed neighbor’s escaped bear, a man bitten by a monkey he had acquired as a pet and a USDA veterinarian 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.
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.
Zibby Wilder, Animal Protection Institute, 916-447-3085 x205