The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

September 28, 2013

Owners of exotic animals can soon get Ohio permits

By ANN SANNER
Associated Press

COLUMBUS — Keeping bears, tigers, jaguars or other exotic animals in Ohio will soon require a new state-issued permit.

Owners can start applying Tuesday as the final parts of the state’s crackdown on dangerous wild animals sets in. Ohio officials can seize the animals if owners are found housing them without a permit starting next year.  

The law was strengthened following the release of dozens of animals, including lions and tigers, by their suicidal owner in 2011. A look at its requirements:

WILDLIFE SHELTER PERMIT

Owners who don’t breed animals will apply for a wildlife shelter permit. Fees range from $250 to more than $1,000, depending on the number of animals. Owners also must get liability insurance that covers a range from $200,000 to as much as $1 million. Applicants must pass a background check and sign an affidavit saying that the public won’t be allowed to have physical contact with the animals. Male creatures must be sterilized. Owners also must meet new caging rules and standards of care for the animals, among other requirements.

PERMITS FOR BREEDERS

Permits for owners who intend to breed and sell the animals are slightly different. They could pay fees of up to $3,000 if they have more than 50 dangerous wild animals. They also must pass a background check and obtain liability insurance or surety bonds. And like those applicants for a wildlife shelter permit, breeders must show at least two years of experience caring for the species they possess or pass a written exam. They must submit a species survival plan and an action plan in case an animal escapes. Their property must be no smaller than 2 acres unless they get a waiver.

RESCUE FACILITIES

The state’s agriculture director will designate such facilities, and they also need a permit by Jan. 1. Application fees are $500 to $2,000. Operators can’t buy, sell, or trade the animals. They can’t use the animals for profit or allow the public to come into contact with the creatures.

EXEMPTIONS

The law exempts certain sanctuaries, licensed circuses, research institutions and facilities accredited by zoo groups. Other exemptions include veterinarians who are providing temporary care to the animals and a high school that uses a new tiger cub as its mascot. Owners who have service spider monkeys trained by nonprofit organizations are also exempt.

RULES IN EFFECT

The law already bans most trading and selling of dangerous wild animals or venomous snakes. Last year, owners had to tell state officials how many animals they had, where they were located, and who their veterinarian is, among other details. They had to install microchips in their creatures, so they could be identified in case they got lost or escaped. Intentionally releasing a dangerous wild animal is now a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to a year in prison.

SPREADING THE WORD

Three inspectors will visit owners who have registered their animals to tell them about Ohio’s new regulations and how to get a permit. The inspectors’ stops will increase into next week and the agriculture department plans to mail reminders to owners, spokesman Brett Gates said.