Enforce wild-animals law now

Enforce wild-animals law now

Now that a federal district court has wisely upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s reasonable law banning private ownership of wild and exotic animals, the state must begin tough enforcement of its taut provisions post haste.

About one week ago, federal District Judge George Smith upheld Ohio’s new law that at long last prohibits your next-door-neighbors from harboring lions, tigers, bears, crocodiles and other wild, exotic and, most importantly, potentially deadly creatures on their property.

As the Humane Society of the United States has aptly pointed out throughout the 15-month debacle over the law, keeping wild and exotic animals as pets threatens public health and safety as well as the animals’ welfare. Wild animals can attack, they can spread disease, and the average pet owner cannot provide the care they need in captivity.

Tragedy spurred change

The state Legislature concurred and corrected an oversight in state law last June by adopting the Dangerous Wild Animal Act, sponsored by Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville. It was enacted only after several incidents relating to dangerous wild animals in Ohio, including the October 2011 Zanesville tragedy in which nearly 50 large animals, including tigers, grizzly bears and lions, were released from their cages by their owner into a residential community. Most of them were subsequently killed by law enforcement officers.

Not long after the law’s passage however, seven exotic animal owners challenged it in federal court, claiming it violated their constitutional rights. Now that Judge Smith has slammed the door on that group’s specious arguments, Ohio must end its moratorium on prosecuting those who flout it.

In the name of public health and animal welfare, the state’s Department of Agriculture – enforcement agent of the law – should now waste no time in tracking down the estimated 600 exotic animal owners in the state who have failed to register their animals and abide by the law’s commonsensical restrictions.

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