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Published: Friday, 1/7/2011

Gov. Strickland bans owning of exotic animals

COLUMBUS — Gov. Ted Strickland Thursday followed through with his promise to enact a ban on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals — that was part of a deal that kept off the ballot last year a controversial overhaul of how farmers treat their livestock.

It was one of his last official acts before the Democratic governor leaves office at midnight Sunday. His Republican successor, John Kasich, said he is at least initially inclined to honor that commitment.

Mr. Strickland's executive order allows existing private owners of lions, bears, wolves, tigers, apes, large constricting and poisonous snakes, crocodiles, and other “dangerous wild animals'' to keep them if they register with the state by May 1. However, the rule bars them from breeding, selling, or trading their animals. It also bars those who don't already own such an animal from doing so.

Ohio's lack of such a law received attention last August when a Lorain County trainer was killed by a bear owned by a man who has other large wild animals.

“It sounds reasonable, but just let me take a look at it,'' Mr. Kasich said. “I would be inclined to say we should continue it.”

The temporary rule will last through March 6 while the legislative Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review considers permanent livestock and animal care rules. Mr. Kasich could undo the executive order after taking office or could allow it to expire without having a permanent rule to replace it.

“This rule takes a responsible step forward in protecting human life…,” outgoing Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Sean Logan said.

“Therefore, we hope the incoming administration will see the value of this effort and take the necessary steps to implement a permanent rule that would ban the ownership of these species.''

The ban was part of a deal quietly brokered with the Strickland administration by the Washington-based Humane Society of the United States, which was marching toward a November, 2010, ballot initiative to write into the Ohio Constitutional new standards for the confinement and slaughter of cows, pigs, and egg-laying poultry.

The constitutional amendment would have, among other things, prohibited the caging of such animals in a way that prevented them from lying down, standing, turning around, or fully extending their limbs or wings.

Voters had approved a counter amendment in 2009 pushed by the agricultural community and Mr. Strickland to create a statewide panel to write new standards.

But that didn't stop the humane society, which argued that the panel was dominated by factory farms that would use the effort to solidify the status quo.

The brokered deal largely gave the humane society what it wanted, but would have given farmers a longer period of time to make the changes.

It remains to be seen whether that portion of the deal will be honored by the new Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

The wild animal portion of the deal, however, is not before the livestock board.

“Dangerous wild animals do not belong in the backyards and basements of private citizens,” said Wayne Pacelle, humane society president.

“It's bad for the animals and dangerous for people. This emergency order is good for Ohio, and we look forward to seeing it implemented in the months ahead.”

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com,

or 614-221-0496.



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