By Marc Kovac
State lawmakers are considering whether to sign off on $3.5 million for a new facility to house dangerous wild animals confiscated by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The request is included on the Sept. 10 agenda of the state Controlling Board and seeks to hire a Columbus firm to build “a secured facility for temporary housing of dangerous animals that are expected to be surrendered to the state as a result of Ohio’s new Dangerous Wild Animal Act.”
The agenda was released Friday, just days before a new state law takes effect banning private ownership of bears, tigers, lions, gorillas and other animals without a permit.
“Beginning Sept. 5, owners of dangerous wild animals and restricted snakes may be unable or unwilling to comply with Ohio law,” state Agriculture Director Dave Daniels wrote in a request for a public emergency declaration to allow quicker consideration of the project. “Those who seek to get rid of their animals will likely look to the state to provide housing and care for their animals.”
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed, and Gov. John Kasich signed into law, legislation limiting the private ownership of dangerous wild animals.
It categorizes bears, tigers, lions, elephants, Komodo dragons, crocodiles and other species as “dangerous wild animals.”
Current owners in both categories are banned from acquiring new animals, though they can keep the ones they have as long as they register them with the state, implant microchips, meet care standards and obtain proper permits.
The new law also categorizes a variety of anacondas, pythons and other restricted snakes, with owners required to obtain possession and propagation permits.
Anyone not holding the proper permits or meeting state requirements will be banned from having dangerous wild animals as of 2014.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is overseeing the permitting and will be charged with confiscating animals that are held illegally.
The agency has proposed a building to house the latter to be located about 15 miles away from the Statehouse on the outskirts of a Columbus suburb, away from the city’s more densely populated areas.
The new facility would include 22,000 to 30,000 square feet of space on an acre site with a “prison-grade security fence,” according to documents.
State officials hope to have the new facility in place before the end of the year.