Exotic Animal Owners in Ohio Fight New Ban

Last Friday morning, a group of four exotic animal owners in Ohio filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act.

The new law went into effect on September 5 and immediately banned the sale of big cats and other exotic or dangerous animals, and will ban possession of lions, tigers, bears, elephants, wolves, alligators, crocodiles and certain kinds of monkeys as pets starting in 2014. Current owners had until November 5 to register their animals and show they had been microchipped so they could be identified if they escaped or got lost. The first offense for a roaming animal will result in a misdemeanor, a second offense will be a felony.

Owners are claiming the new law violates their First Amendment and property rights and are arguing that they shouldn’t have to join private associations, such as the  Association of Zoos and Aquariums, or give up their animals without compensation. They also believe they shouldn’t have to comply with costly regulations and that the microchipping provision is dangerous for their animals and, in some cases, would cost more than the animals themselves are worth.

On Monday, the last day for people to register their animals with the state, the Ohio Department of Agriculture agreed not to immediately enforce new rules on owners until there is a hearing in December. According to the Coshocton Tribune, 130 people registered 483 animals that afternoon, but state officials estimate there more than 500 or 600 individuals with exotic animals in their possession.

With the new agreement, owners who haven’t registered their animals by the deadline may not face prosecution, which would have otherwise resulted charges of a first-degree misdemeanor for a first offense and a fifth-degree felony for any subsequent offenses.

Some people argue that it was easy to pass the law after the escape and death of 48 animals in Zanesville, Ohio after Terry Thompson opened the doors to their cages on his property before fatally shooting himself, but people have been fighting to strengthen the state’s exotic and dangerous animal regulations before that happened.

Even with that massacre, the state couldn’t prevent the return of five animals, a spotted leopard, a black leopard, two Celebes Macaque monkeys and a brown bear, to Thompson’s wife. New records show she has added two 11-week-old leopards to her collection.

Karen Minton, Ohio state director for the HSUS believes the lawsuit is proof that people are just trying to delay registration because they can’t meet the minimum requirements of the new law, which include fees, background checks, liability insurance and the ability to properly care for the animals in question. Anyone who can’t meet the requirements may have their animals seized.


Related Stories:

Breaking News: Exotic Animals Run Loose in Ohio

Officials Return Exotic Animals to Zanesville Widow

The Massacre in Zanesville: Why?


Photo credit: Thinkstock


Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 2 years ago


Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Jennifer T.
Jennifer T.3 years ago

(part 5) I value all the varied species that inhabit the earth, I am fairly pragmatic about the keeping of these animals by private individuals, if all of them were as well cared for as the ones you describe, I would not be concerned at all. An article I read a while ago stated that there are more tigers in Texas, than there are in India. (India has over 3,200 still in the wild & the # is decreasing at a steady rate) Since I would like the earth to have tigers on it, if this is true, please take good care of your tigers, all you Texans, & G-D Bless.
People count on their governments to keep them safe, many people do not feel safe about lions, & tigers, & bears, fight the ownership issue in court, gather together to form some
sort of organization, & microchip your animals (it is very easy). I know you feel your rights are being threatened, but many people feel you are threatening their rights.

Jennifer T.
Jennifer T.3 years ago

(part 4) As far as smuggling goes, what worries me is the poachers who will eventually run out of wild animals to kill for teeth, horns pelts, tusks, & certain body organs. Apparently there is also a market for exotic game (endangered or not) for exclusive & expensive meals, or for private safaris that you don't have to go to Africa for. I honestly don't know just how much of a problem that is, but it concerns me that someone may start trying to 'farm' some species for those uses. If you would really like to get the public on your side, gather up all your friends and start helping rescue groups, conservation societies, and law enforcement go after the people who got the animals for all the wrong reasons, & whose care for them sucks.

Jennifer T.
Jennifer T.3 years ago

(part 3) That serval was smaller than a cocker spaniel, but cocker spaniels can be fairly aggressive, and like that serval, can be touchy about who is handling them. I had no problem with her, but we didn't let people overwhelm her, or scare her, and eventually were able to place her. Any animal can be dangerous, I think, the last time I checked, that 45 or so people were killed by dogs in the U.S. every year. Veterinary personnel are one of the groups whose insurance premiums are likely to be higher, with larger deductibles. Our jobs can be tough on the body, and no matter what size our patients are, almost anything can do you harm. I believe you, and your friends are careful. Many out there are not. Saying that you are law abiding, and laws don't stop those who are not is a bit specious, Do you truly think without the laws in place there would less of a problem than there is now??

Jennifer T.
Jennifer T.3 years ago

(part 2) I am aware of the bobcat & serval owners, years ago it was ocelots, but apparently they lost popularity due to either aggression &/or breeding problems. I last handled a serval when the owner of the spayed and declawed cat decided the cat did not make a good house pet. Their solution was to let her go in a park. When she was spotted in a small town, the local animal control person and the town policewoman chased & caught her (she bit the policewoman, but , for a change, no one shot her) Born in captivity, and declawed, by the time she got to us, she was very hungry indeed. Not everybody in the hospital could handle her, I had to padlock her cage to prevent some employees from forgetting she was not a toy.

Jennifer T.
Jennifer T.3 years ago

OK, Amanda M, those are all thought out answers, and you enabled your spell check, and you are very articulate, which is a nice change. I will now do my best to reply. Yes, if you are willing to supply all the room, medical care, companionship, and amenities you describe for your captive exotic animals you are certainly acting more responsibly than most Zoos. Judging by the reports of animal found in roadside zoos, city apartments, privately owned estates, game parks, and secluded properties across the nation, not everybody is that responsible as you & your friends. Yes, living in the wild is tough & these captive bred animals, of whatever species, are not equipped for it, which is usually why when one gets loose the result are tragic, I am a veterinary technician, I have been for over 30 years, and until I was disabled was a licensed wildlife rehaber as well. ( end part 1)

Amanda M.
Amanda M.3 years ago

"They are not living normal lives. You can say at least they are alive and protected, if it was a human being treated this way, do you think they would be happy under such conditions?"

Normal is subjective. I am sure you have seen arguments about how "normal" is the constant risk of starvation, disease, parasites, and, in the case of the animals currently in captivity in the United States, no idea of how to survive in the wild because non of their ancestors for 20 generations has had to do it. For animals that were born in captivity (and all of their ancestors since 1975 have been as well) life in an enclosure with their every need being provided for no matter what is "normal", and life in the wild is not.

They are being provided a regular, healthy, palatable diet; protection from predators and disease; ample room to exercise, even if it isn't what they would claim in the wild (most of which is there in order to ensure there is enough food for them to eat - not a consideration in a captive setting); and sex and companionship with compatible partners (or the need and drive for sex removed as it is in domesticated animals). This *IS* what is normal to an animal born in a captive setting.

Amanda M.
Amanda M.3 years ago

"Most of the environments these animals end up in are not comfortable, spacious, or appropriate."

It is an interesting notion that animals in zoos have larger enclosures than animals in private homes, but that just isn't the case. The largest and most recognized accrediting body in the United States is the AZA.

The AZA says that a mountain lion can be kept in an enclosure of 300 square feet with 150 square feet per additional animal in the enclosure (source: http://www.aza.org/uploadedFiles/Animal_Care_and_Management/Animal_Programs/Animal_Programs_Database/Husbandry_Manuals/HusbandryFelidSmall.pdf). Breeders generally state that mountain lions should not be kept in enclosures less than 1000 square feet (source: http://www.noahfcc.com/cougars.htm).

Most people I know with cougars wouldn't keep more than two in an enclosure this size (sorry I don't have sources for that one). This means that many private owners wouldn't keep more than two animals in the same space the AZA would put up to 5 (technically 5.6, but if anyone is keeping 0.6 mountain lions in an enclosure, there is a serious problem beyond cage size ;).

I will say that I have heard of private owners keeping mountain lions in enclosures as small as 600 square feet, but never more than one in an enclosure that small. This means that even at their absolute WORST, private owners are not comfortable giving their animals less than double the space required by the AZA.

"They are not living normal lives. Y

Amanda M.
Amanda M.3 years ago

"Smuggled animals, dead or alive is a multi-billion dollar business every year."

I already addressed these statements above, but I did want to ask some questions:

How, exactly, will enacting more laws affect people that are already knowingly flaunting existing laws?
If they will not be affected by these laws, then what effect will the proposed law have on the currently law-abiding population?
How, exactly, will enacting a law that prevents the keeping of live animals affect the smuggling of dead animal parts?