By Marc Kovac
The Columbus Zoo’s Jack Hanna said Thursday he’s in a “state of shock” that lawmakers have not acted on legislation to stop private Ohioans from owning tigers, bears, lions and other dangerous wild animals.
“We now have over 200 lions and tigers in the state of Ohio. We’re not talking about ... kitty cats or camels or llamas,” Hanna said. “What’s it going to take ... to pass the bill? Someone else getting killed?”
Hanna made the comments at the Ohio Newspaper Association’s annual convention in Columbus. He also showcased a cheetah, penguin, bearcat and other animals.
But he spent much of his time Thursday addressing legislation on ownership of dangerous animals.
Ohio was thrust into the national spotlight in October after the owner of dozens of bears, lions, tigers and other wild animals released the animals from his Zanesville property and then committed suicide.
Deputy sheriffs, with Hanna on site at the time, were forced to kill dozens of the animals.
The escape occurred months after Kasich allowed an executive order, signed by his predecessor, to expire that banned the private ownership and sale of such animals.
While supportive of the ban, Kasich and other officials said the state did not have authority to enforce it or animal registration requirements without changes to state law.
Kasich then directed a statewide working group to study the issue. Members offered recommendations late last year, including a ban on private ownership of such animals by 2014, with licensed propagators and sanctuaries required to meet new state regulations and inspection requirements.
A bill was supposed to be introduced earlier this week but was delayed.
Hanna said he has reviewed drafts of the legislation and is concerned about some of the provisions.
He said he isn’t opposed to allowing existing owners to keep their animals, provided they have the proper fencing and other requirements are met. But he questioned whether such a provision would prompt owners to purchase quantities of wild animals before the new law takes effect.
He also said he opposes a provision that would allow the state to euthanize animals it confiscates from owners.