The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

November 29, 2012

3 exotic animals in Ashtabula County are registered with state

Star Beacon

— There are no lions, tigers or bears living — legally, anyway — in Ashtabula County, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

A new law obliges owners of dangerous wild animals, as defined by the state, to microchip the animals and register them with the agency no later than this month. Owners who don’t comply risk forfeiting their animals after the end of next year.

The ODA is still processing applications, but apparently only two people in Ashtabula County — who house their animals in Saybrook Township — have registered their critters, according to records from the state. One is a Ninevah Road woman, while the other is “Jungle Terry” Sullivan, a well-known local entertainer and naturalist who for more than 20 years has used small mammals, reptiles and amphibians animals in his programs.

Sullivan, who listed a Brown Road address with the state, has registered an American alligator and a marmoset, according to state records. The alligator is three years old and weighs 10 pounds. The marmoset, a species of small monkey native to South America, is one year old and weighs less than a pound.

The Ninevah Road resident registered a serval, which is a medium-sized, African wild cat. The serval is five years old and weighs 34 pounds, according to state records.

Owners were obliged to register their animals with the state or risk not receiving a wildlife shelter or propagation permit that will be needed at the start of 2014. Ahead is the actual permitting process and what faces owners, according to an ODA statement.

“Our next step is to make owners aware of the interim requirements for housing and keeping animals as they become effective,” David Daniels, ODA director, said in a statement earlier this month. “Just as we worked hard to make them aware of the registration requirements and deadline, we will also work hard to educate registered animal owners about what the long-term requirements are going to be for keeping dangerous wild animals so they can determine if seeking a permit is in the best interest of their families and their animals.”

Portions of the state’s process are puzzling and contradictory, particularly when it comes to species that require registration, Sullivan said. He can understand the need for the government to keep tabs on the big predators and make sure they are contained safely, but Sullivan’s marmoset barely stands six inches “and couldn’t bite through a grape,” he said. Sullivan said he can feel the mandatory microchip through the skin when he pets the small primate.

The federal government already requires licenses from certain animal owners, and the state requirement just adds to the financial burden, Sullivan said. The owner of the serval could not be reached for comment.

ODA is still compiling registrations received from owners across the state, Erica Pitchford Hawkins, ODA spokeswoman, said Tuesday. Not counting zoos and similar operations, so far 121 Ohioans have registered 451 animals, she said.

The state fully believes animals are out there that haven’t been documented, Hawkins said. “We’re pretty confident not everyone in the state (with animals) has registered,” she said.