Our View: Ohio, and other states, need stricter exotic animal laws

DKS Editors

Last Tuesday, Muskingum County Sheriff’s deputies were forced to kill 48 of 56 exotic animals after their owner, Terry Thompson, opened the cages then killed himself.

The animals killed included lions, bears, monkeys, wolves and 18 rare Bengal tigers. A bear, three leopards and two monkeys, the only animals to survive, are now in the Columbus Zoo.

Multiple news reports mention that at least three dozen complaints had been filed since 2004 about Thompson’s sanctuary. In other words, this wasn’t the first time his exotic animals were seen roaming. A giraffe grazing by a highway and a monkey in a tree are just two examples. Worse yet, Thompson had faced charges of animal mistreatment.

Still it took the threat of residents’ safety and 48 dead animals to get Ohio Gov. John Kasich to take exotic animal laws in Ohio seriously.

The day after the massacre, nearly 28,000 people had signed an online petition, posted by an Ohio resident, urging Kasich to ban the sale and ownership of wild animals, according to a story posted on Yahoo.com.


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“Ohio has some of the most lax regulation of exotic pets, and after this disaster, it is apparent that this lack of regulation has been a threat to public safety and the welfare of the animals for too long,” the petition said.

The public is calling for laws to be enacted immediately to prevent another tragedy like this from happening in Ohio — and rightfully so. A Dayton group working to end private ownership of wild animals said that it knows of at least 20 farms that are comparable to Terry Thompson’s.

Ohio is among about 25 states known for insufficient regulations. It ranks on the bottom with Missouri, Nevada and Oklahoma, all of which have few if any rules on keeping wild animals, according to a 2009 report by the Humane Society of the United States.

“People die as a consequence of our reckless attachment to dangerous exotic animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society. “Now animals are dead because of an awful absence of policy in Ohio.”

After failure to renew an executive order regulating exotic pets that Ted Strickland issued in the last days of his administration, Kasich decided to reverse course and revise how Ohio regulates exotic pets.

The new executive order, issued Friday, directs several state agencies to use their authority to crack down on abusive owners and unsafe conditions for exotic animals.

It’s good that legislators are finally taking this seriously, but other states with lax laws should consider doing the same before they end up like Ohio and it’s too late.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.