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Published: Tuesday, 9/11/2012

State OKs site for exotic animals


COLUMBUS -- A state panel Monday approved spending up to $3.5 million to build a facility that temporarily could house dozens of exotic animals confiscated under a new Ohio law.

The Controlling Board, which handles certain adjustments to the state budget, voted 6-1 for the Ohio Department of Agriculture's request after board members raised concerns about authorizing the funds ahead of planned public meetings about the facility. The request includes $2.93 million to construct the building in Reynoldsburg.

Owners must start registering exotic animals such as lions, tigers, and some snakes under a law that came about after an eastern Ohio man released 50 animals, including black bears, mountain lions, and tigers, from his farm in Zanesville in October. Officials can seize animals if the owners don't meet state rules or are found housing animals without permits.

"This isn't something anybody is happy about," said Rep. Jay Hottinger (R., Newark), who is on the board. "But the fact of the matter is, what we can't do is we can't risk maintaining the status quo."

State officials envision a facility that would have movable cages and could house 40 to 60 animals until permanent homes are found at sanctuaries or other sites or until their owners make changes to meet state law and take back their animals, department Director David Daniels told the board. He said the facility would be surrounded by fences. The animals would be monitored by videos and state employees, and the facility would not be open to other people.

He acknowledged many questions are unanswered, including the animals covered by the law, how long the state might have to keep those that are confiscated, and how much that could cost.

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