Ohio has notably weak animal laws. It ranks 34th in animal protections by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Those flimsy laws not only impact the animals, but also the community in which they reside. The Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Law was enacted quickly after the stunned world looked on in horror at the majestic, black bears, Bengal tigers, and African lions lying, slain, in the front farmyard of Terry Thompson in Zanesville, Ohio in October of 2011. The international disbelief was not only that someone could own “backyard tigers”, but that there was no plan in place to handle them if they got loose.
Look a little closer. Prior to the Zanesville tragedy there did not exist even an animal registry. So, Ohio firemen, police officers, social workers, physicians, or anyone going to a home for a visit or needing to enter quickly in an emergency had no warning to let them know that an alligator or an African lion was housed there.
Even today there is no one in Ohio knows how many exotics there are or where they are located. Many owners of Ohio exotics have not complied with the law mandating free registry of the animals.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in November of 2012 statistics from the Department of Agriculture. Only 121 individuals have come forward to register 343 animals. Yet, there have been conflicting, oral reports of between 3,000 and 10,000 exotics in Ohio.
Within the last few weeks a five-foot long alligator was discovered walking across a driveway in Richland County. The animal control was called. It turned out it belonged to a neighbor, who had neither registered it with the state nor had posted signs alerting the community that the alligator lived on the premises, as is required by law.
In addition, a monkey was shot and killed last week in Clermont County. No one knew who the owner was. Animal control feared public safety as night approached and made the decision to shoot it.
Ohio lags behind in animal protections. The tragedy with Ohio exotics and the resistance to enact common sense measures for community safety is but one, horrific example. Ohio citizens and the General Assembly need to look around at other states’ initiatives and to move Ohio forward to protect its animals and its communities.