Wisconsin is currently one of only a handful of states left that has few laws regarding keeping exotic and dangerous animals as pets, but lawmakers are taking action to remedy that with a new bill.
Private ownership of wild, exotic and dangerous animals poses a threat to public health and safety and to the welfare of these animals who are often kept in inhumane conditions. Even with the best of intentions, most people aren’t equipped to meet the physical and psychological needs of many species who continue to be kept as pets, which raises serious welfare concerns. Due to their very nature, even if they were born in captivity and hand-raised, they still have their instincts and innate needs that can’t be provided for in most private settings.
Because of their nature as wild animals and serious problems associated with keeping them as pets, including their potential to spread diseases to humans, a number of organizations including the American Veterinary Medical Association, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Animal Control Association, the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association have all come out in opposition to private ownership of exotic species.
The tragic incident in Zanesville, Ohio, that involved Terry Thompson releasing dozens of wild animals before taking his own life in 2011, brought the problems and dangers associated with keeping exotics into the national spotlight and led to new laws regarding their ownership. Hundreds of other incidents across the country that have involved attacks and escaped animals being killed highlight the need to crack down on private ownership of exotic and dangerous animals.
Wisconsin’s AB 703 will ban the sale, breeding and possession of a number of species, including non-native big cats, bears, alligators, crocodiles and apes, with exemptions for veterinarians and facilities with trained wildlife professionals, including accredited zoos and wildlife sanctuaries.
Rep. Warren Petryk, who introduced the bill, cited a number of concerning incidents in the state as cause, including a 3-year-old baboon who was confiscated from a basement in Dane County in 2011, an alligator discovered in a Beloit apartment in 2009, and a lion cub that bit a child at a Baraboo pet store in 2005, according to the Leader-Telegram.
The bill will also prohibit the public from coming into direct contact with dangerous exotic animals and require owners to notify the authorities if there is an escape. Those who already own a dangerous exotic animal would be grandfathered in and allowed to keep them, as long as they register their animals within their municipality. Cities, villages, towns and counties, meanwhile, will get the ability to enact their own ordinances relating to dangerous exotic animals as long as they’re at least as strict as the provisions in this bill.
Wisconsin’s proposed legislation has already received widespread support from animal welfare organizations, including Born Free and the Humane Society of the United States, in addition to the Milwaukee Police Association, the Wisconsin Counties Association and the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.
Please sign and share the petition urging Wisconsin’s lawmakers to pass legislation that will keep both animals and residents safe.
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