Exotic pets are a hobby for couple

German Twp. property is home to foxes, raccoons, skunks, quail and other woodland creatures.

GERMAN TWP. — In addition to Serafina the serval cat at large in German Twp., a menagerie of woodland creatures call Jim and Cindy Shaffer’s Troy Road property home.

There are the foxes named Hope and Tumbleweed, the raccoon duo Rocky and Honey, Plunger and the other possums, plus skunks, quail, Canada geese, degus, and on and on.

All of the animals are caged. They were raised in captivity, the Shaffers insist, and were purchased from licensed breeders.

Shaffer has an Ohio Department of Natural Resources permit to breed and sell many of these creatures, and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife permit for the Canada geese. But they aren’t in it for the money.

“It’s more of a hobby,” Jim Shaffer said. “We might make enough (from breeding) to buy their food.”

Cindy Shaffer got into raising exotic and unusual animals when she purchased a fox in 1989. She has since entered a bizarre world of exotic animal owners, whom she sees at regular auctions.

She knows people who own lions, tigers, bears and a zoo of other creatures. In Clark County, she is aware of half a dozen people who own zebras, deer, serval cats and other oddities.

An ad in the Animal Finders’ Guide magazine promotes an exotic animal and bird sale in Mt. Hope, Ohio, starting Sept. 16, where primates, bears, camels and more will be for sale.

The Shaffers once owned a ring-tailed lemur, and Jim posits that “Total, in Ohio, I’ll bet you there are more here than in Madagascar.”

They also know the man in a Cleveland suburb whose pet bear recently mauled a handler to death, which has brought into question Ohio’s lax laws on keeping exotic animals and spurred interest in a statewide ban on having such creatures.

Clark County Humane Society Director James Straley said he gets several calls for exotic animals every year. Springfield has a rule requiring owners of exotic animals to report any escapes, but that is the only exotic animal ordinance on the books locally, Straley said. Exotic pets don’t have to be licensed, so it’s unknown how many there are in the county.

A website that advocates keeping wild animals in the wild and tracks problems with exotic pets lists two local incidents in recent years: a pet mountain lion that escaped in Springfield in 2000 and a kangaroo spotted on the loose in Harmony Twp. in 2005.