You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.


Welcome to

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

More than half of exotic animal permits unresolved

State legislation came after man set dangerous animals free.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture continues to issue permits to exotic animal owners, yet more than half of the applications are pending as the state works with those who applied for them.

The state said in early February that it hoped to complete the application and permitting process by the end of March, but challenges such as insurance and caging requirements have slowed the process, said Erica Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Through the end of March, 33 permits had been issued, 42 permits were pending and none had been denied, Hawkins said. The new Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act took full effect Jan. 1.

“We were hoping to have a few more done at this point, but at the same time, we want to work with owners and give them the time they need to get their pieces in order if they want to keep their animals,” Hawkins said. “It’s a balancing act.”

The state will continue to work with owners during the permitting process, she said, in addition to reaching out to owners who registered their animals but did not apply for a permit. No animals have been seized by the state, Hawkins said.

Hawkins did not want to speculate when the permitting process will be completed, but said the state will “need to start to look at denying permits” at some point.

“We’re going to do what we can for the owners who genuinely want to be in compliance,” Hawkins said.

During a two-month registration period in late 2012, 150 owners — private citizens and zoos — registered a total of 888 dangerous wild animals, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Before the law was established, Ohio had no regulations related to private citizens owning exotic animals, nor was there an inventory of exotics in the state.

Tim Harrison, the director of Outreach For Animals, a nonprofit exotic animal rescue organization, has estimated that 90 percent of owners did not register their exotic animals. He said in Ohio there are 2,000 lions, tigers, leopards and cougars, and about 1,000 bears.

“(The state law) is a real positive for the future of the state of Ohio, and it might be an example for the rest of the country,” Harrison said. “There are still people out there bucking the system.”

Harrison said he feared some owners might set their animals free this summer.

“We have to be ready for that, and we are,” he said.

Hawkins said the state will continue to enforce the ban on acquiring new exotic animals and bringing them into the state, as well as monitor permitted owners to make sure their facilities are maintained.

“There are always going to be folks with any law that are going to want to operate as they have been, despite what they’re doing is now illegal,” Hawkins said. “We’re not being naïve.”

State officials phased in aspects of the Dangerous Wild Animal Act that Gov. John Kasich signed in June 2012. The first phase went into effect Sept. 5, 2012, prohibiting the sale or purchase of dangerous wild animals, including lions, tigers and bears.

Owners of registered dangerous wild animals began applying for permits from the Department of Agriculture on Oct. 1, 2013.

Last month, a federal appeals court upheld Ohio’s law restricting the ownership of exotic animals — denying a plea by owners, who alleged the law violates their free speech and free association rights.

Seven owners sued the state, claiming the new state law will hurt their business of breeding and selling exotic animals, while compelling them to join exempted organizations they don’t support. Representatives from the Ohio Association of Animal Owners did not return messages seeking comment.

Bobbi Brink, founder of Lions, Tigers & Bears based in Alpine, Calif., said her organization has helped relocate 42 exotic animals from Ohio to sanctuaries around the country since August 2012.

“The regulations the state is asking for is what you owe the animal as an owner,” Brink said. “It’s not like the state is not willing to work with these people. They want to see the animals cared for. They deserve the proper diet and medical care. That needs to come first, not everything else.”

The state built a taxpayer-funded, $2.8 million, 20,000-square-foot temporary holding facility in Reynoldsburg on the Department of Agriculture’s 150-acre campus property.

Construction was completed at the end of February 2013, and since it opened, there have been 32 exotic animals that have stayed there, mostly alligators and bears. Hawkins declined to say if the facility is currently occupied.

The state legislation was sparked by an October 2011 Zanesville incident when Terry Thompson killed himself after setting 56 jungle cats and other dangerous exotic animals free in the Muskingum County countryside. Sheriff’s deputies killed 49 of the animals to prevent them from escaping into the community and harming citizens.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in News

Betty White celebrates 95th birthday, offers advice on long, happy life
Betty White celebrates 95th birthday, offers advice on long, happy life

Beloved actress Betty White is 95 today, and in a charming Yahoo interview with Katie Couric, the "Golden Girl" looks back and shares her thoughts on living a long, happy life. “Be mean with people. That’s what you do,” she deadpanned, adding a growl for effect. Actually, she suggests people stay...
Amazon, other online retailers to accept food stamps
Amazon, other online retailers to accept food stamps

Amazon and six other online retailers will soon be able to take government assistance as payment for groceries under a new plan. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, consumers who are eligible for benefits will be able to use their assistance accounts on Amazon, FreshDirect...
Did baby of homeless woman die in freezing cold or was child stillborn? Authorities disagree
Did baby of homeless woman die in freezing cold or was child stillborn? Authorities disagree

It's unclear whether the baby of a homeless woman in Oregon was stillborn or died after birth in freezing temperatures, the Willamette Week reports.
Some neighbors 'not surprised' after wife of Pulse nightclub shooter arrested
Some neighbors 'not surprised' after wife of Pulse nightclub shooter arrested

Update: The Justice Department released the indictment against Noor Salman Mateen Tuesday morning.  Original story: The FBI has arrested the widow of the gunman in the Pulse terror attack, charging her with aiding him in his plans and obstructing the investigation into the shooting, WFTV learned Monday. Noor Salman Mateen, 30, was married to ...
Donald Trump's inauguration: Here's a list of members of Congress who are not attending
Donald Trump's inauguration: Here's a list of members of Congress who are not attending

In the run-up to the inauguration of Donald Trump as America’s 45th president, more than 40 Congressional Democrats have said that they will not attend the ceremony on Friday. While many said earlier that they did not plan to attend the inauguration, more legislators joined the list after a dust-up this weekend between Trump and Rep. John Lewis...
More Stories