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Gov. Kasich signs order to tame animal ownership laws

Courtesy of MCT

After the escape of 56 wild animals in Zanesville last week, Gov. John Kasich made strides toward changing Ohio’s lack of ownership laws.

On Friday, Kasich signed an executive order for more regulations on exotic pet auctions and for severe penalties on unlicensed auctions.

Kasich called on the help of state agencies such as the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to enforce registration of exotic pets and the Department of Agriculture to use their authority to regulate auction houses and shut down any unlicensed auctions. Kasich also wants law enforcement, public officials and humane societies to work together to ensure that animal welfare and public health laws are upheld.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds will work as advisers with law enforcement to help evaluate animals found and try to place them in zoos or accredited sanctuaries.

Dale Schmidt, CEO of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and the Wilds, said he wants Ohioans to understand the magnitude of taking on a wild animal as a pet.

“The resources it takes are immense. Normally people shouldn’t have them as pets,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the cost to house wild animals is sometimes too much for even animal sanctuaries to afford.

“There are certain things they need that people can simply not provide,” Schmidt said.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium issued a statement commending the quick action from Kasich and vowed to lend its assistance.

“The animal care experts at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, in conjunction with their partner institutions in the state of Ohio and around the country, are ready to provide resources and expertise to support the plan announced by Governor Kasich to protect the exotic animals and citizens of Ohio,” the statement said.

The Columbus Zoo had worked with former Gov. Ted Strickland on his executive order, which did not ban ownership of exotic animals but would have required the animals to be registered with the state. The order would have also prevented anyone convicted of animal abuse from owning exotic animals. Kasich allowed Strickland’s order to die off after he defeated the former governor in last year’s election, The Columbus Dispatch reported .

Representatives from the Columbus Zoo are part of the Dangerous Wild Animal Task Force Kasich created upon entering office in February. The task force is in place to create a new legal framework that would give Ohio the authority to regulate dangerous wild animals. It will be led by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and include representatives from the Humane Society of the United States, veterinarians and county prosecutors.

Kasich expects the task force to have framework ready for approval by Nov. 30.

Schmidt said every aspect of exotic and wild animal ownership must be taken into consideration.

“A macaw can live for 60 years,” Schmidt said. “You must place that bird into your will so it will be taken care of.”

Schmidt said he knows there are many other options when it comes to owning a pet.

“Exotic animals are not meant to be pets, go down to the shelter and rescue an animal,” Schmidt said.

During his press conference, Kasich stated the laws in Ohio have been too lax and unattended to for several hundred years. With this executive order, Kasich wants to see action and penalties in place to protect people and animals in the future.

Delcianna Winders, director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement for PETA, is glad the government is taking action but, it is “too little, too late.”

“Fifteen months ago a man was mauled to death by a bear in northern Ohio,” Winders said. “Why has it taken this long to get something to change?”

Winders doesn’t think what Kasich has done will help much, saying, “keeping large exotic pets is dangerous and cruel.”

Until a law is in place banning ownership Winders said the cruelty will continue.

“A private institution owning wild animals is dangerous,” Winders said. “What happened last week proved that. Everyone suffers.”

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