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Fostoria examines new pet law

FOSTORIA - A 7-foot boa constrictor, which has escaped from its owner's home twice in a month, has led city officials to consider tightening Fostoria's restrictions on exotic animals.

Under a current city ordinance, the only limit on exotic animal owners is a requirement that they notify the police and city hall within an hour if their pet escapes.

Council is considering legislation that would require the owners of nondomestic animals to register annually with the city, pay a one-time $25 registration fee, and post a window sign letting people know about their pet. Owners also would be subject to a city inspection of the animal's home.

As written, the legislation would make violations a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine - the same penalties as in the current ordinance.

The proposal, which received a first reading Tuesday night, is modeled after an ordinance passed several years ago in Wilmington, Ohio, near Dayton. It defines “wild or exotic animals” as nondomesticated cats and dogs; nonhuman primates (except for monkeys); poisonous stinging insects, spiders, and scorpions; any reptile longer than two feet; and bears, kangaroos, and eagles.

Safety-Service Director Ralph Wise said the ordinance would let neighbors and city officials know where exotic animals are so they can quickly handle any problems.

He cited the case of the missing snake, a red-tail boa constrictor that escaped from its cage twice last month. In the most recent incident, the snake was recaptured Monday, close to its owner's home on North Main Street.

“The biggest thing this [proposal] seems to do is create disclosure,” Mr. Wise said. “That's the thing that alarmed a lot of people in that particular neighborhood. Not only was the animal out, but they didn't even know there was one to start with.”

Mr. Wise said he doesn't believe Fostoria has many exotic animals, and escape incidents are relatively rare. However, he said dogs that are bred between wild and domesticated species are another concern.

“We did have a police officer shoot a wolf dog once, a few months ago, because it got loose,” he said.

Mayor John Davoli said he supports tougher legislation but wants to make sure the city researches the issue thoroughly.

“I don't want to do something knee-jerk because somebody's having trouble with their pet,” he said. “But at the same time, I have neighbors over there that are scared to death. I talked to one lady that doesn't want to sit out on her front porch anymore.”

Linda Eichelberger, assistant to the mayor and City Council of Wilmington, Ohio, said the town's legislation has worked well since it was enacted in the mid-1990s.

“I think it slowed down people purchasing, once they found out they had to get a permit and give us a certificate of insurance,” she said. “That was the goal: to discourage people from having any type of exotic animal inside the city limits.”

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