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Published: Friday, 4/1/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Commentary

'Elephant:' in-depth look into lethal pastime

BY STEVE POLLICK
OUTDOORS

Sit down with The Elephant in the Living Room tonight or during the next week if you want to have your eyes opened about the multitude of dangers and dilemmas associated with private ownership of potentially lethal exotic animals.

The film opens across the country today, including in the Toledo area, with additional openings April 8 and 15. It's about what your neighbor may be keeping, fanged or clawed or both, in the basement or barn next door.

A one-time showing is scheduled at 7 tonight at the Rave 16 theaters at Franklin Park Mall. A daily schedule of multiple showings also is set for the Rave theaters at Levis Commons in Perrysburg, today through Thursday.

Elephant is an important film for many reasons, one of which is that of it focuses on the lax state of oversight of dangerous exotics in Ohio, which is seen as one of the worst-offender states. (See a review of Elephant by Kirk Baird, The Blade's film critic, in today's Peach Section.

The film's release could not come at a more appropriate time here, for regulation of exotics, as contained in an executive order signed Jan. 7 by former Gov. Ted Strickland, expires Wednesday. Gov. John Kasich has yet to announce what he intends to do about it.

Strickland's order was part of a settlement with animal rights' activists to head off a threatened ballot drive for yet another constitutional amendment over animal welfare.

Details on Executive Order 2010-17S and a public comment opportunity can be viewed online at www.wildohio.com.

In brief, Elephant is a documentary about the controversial American subculture of raising the most dangerous animals in the world as common household pets. It is a problem that largely has fallen through bureaucratic and legislative cracks.

Director Michael Webber follows the journey of two men at the heart of the issue. One, Tim Harrison, of Oakwood, Ohio, a Dayton suburb, is a man whose mission is to protect exotic animals and the public. The other, Terry Brumfield, a big-hearted man with severe health issues from rural Pike County, struggles to keep his two pet African lions that he loves like his own family.

Last August, Harrison, director of the Outreach for Animals, drew attention last August after a young keeper at a Medina County private wild-animal menagerie was mauled to death by a "harmless" black bear. In Ohio alone, Harrison said at the time, "we have so many cougars that we don't know what to do with them."

Many of these "pets" end up dumped, have escaped, or otherwise were released by their negligent or careless owners.

The state of private ownership of exotics has gotten so bad in Ohio, Harrison contended, that "we have people giving away bears and cougars." See more at his Web site, www.outreachforanimals.org.

A former public safety officer in Oakwood, Harrison once watched a fellow firefighter die after being bitten by his own pet rhino viper, a highly venomous African snake. Public safety officers responding to the bite had antivenin on hand, but it did no good. Too late.

Though the film's focus is in Ohio -- including telling, undercover footage at the infamous, anything-goes annual Mount Hope exotic animal auction -- the film roams the length and breadth of America, right down the Florida's heritage Everglades, now overrun with destructive Burmese pythons.

"Ohio has very lax laws on exotic animal ownership," agrees Karen Ash, a Maumee resident who is considering hosting an invitational showing of Elephant for public officials, wildlife and humane authorities, and others.

Ash points to the free-wheeling Mount Hope auction -- where highly venomous snakes to rare primates can be bought and sold practically at will.

"I would like it to stop," she said. Ash has no use for breeding exotics -- lions, tigers, bears, bobcats, and more -- for private ownership.

Bad things almost always happen to such animals, she contends. Once they are confiscated they usually end up dead.

"I don't want to see this happening any more." But Ash acknowledged that exotics owners are gearing up for a fight.

So, if you think that wild and exotic animals -- with few exceptions such as certified zoos -- belong in the wild and not in someone's backyard, engage in some self-education. Start with the Wild Ohio Web site cited above, and punch up Executive Order 2010-17S. Then sit down with a showing of The Elephant in the Living Room in the next few days.

New fishing licenses needed in Michigan

The 2011 Michigan fishing-license season begins today, and anglers can choose from a variety of licenses.

Lake sturgeon, lake herring, amphibians, reptiles, and crustaceans have been added to the all-species fishing license requirement. Anglers may opt for a 24-hour license (good for all species), 72-hour license (good for all species), a season-long restricted license (good for all species except trout, salmon, lake sturgeon, lake herring, amphibians, reptiles or crustaceans), or a season-long, all-species license (good for all species). An additional (free) lake sturgeon tag is required of anglers who fish for or target lake sturgeon. License prices remain unchanged from 2010.

For other details visit online at www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.

In other fishing news, walleye fishing was slowed somewhat this week with cold temperatures, but expect good things with warming, stable weather.

Early in the week, some western Lake Erie boat-anglers took limits of walleye on purple or yellow hair-jigs in just an hour or so, fishing between the Toledo Harbor Light and Little Cedar Point, according to Dan Baker at Butch and Denny's Bait on Corduroy Road.

But conditions overall remains "streaky," said Rick Ferguson at Al Szuch Live Bait, also on Corduroy.

The Maumee and Sandusky rivers both have good runs of walleye in prime fishing zones at present, but the catching has been only fair-plus during the colder days.

Afternoons produced better results and some four-fish limits. Warmer temperatures and some rain could liven up action.

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A wild game dinner is set for tomorrow at the Oak Harbor Conservation Club, 975 South Gordon Rd., Oak Harbor, on the south side of the Portage River east of State Rt. 19. Social hour begins at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. and auctions and raffles at 7:30 p.m. Admission donations at the door; for details call Keith Kralik 419-202-9544.



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