By Marc Kovac
The state Controlling Board has OK’d $3.5 million for a new facility to house dangerous wild animals confiscated from private owners by the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The head of the Ohio Department of Agriculture also said he will push for higher fees from animal owners to cover the costs of implementing the new law.
The Controlling Board action Monday paves the way for the construction of the secured building of up to 30,000 square feet on an acre site in a rural area on the outskirts of suburban Columbus. It will include prison-grade fencing and “cages and other appropriate containments for large animals, reptiles and snakes,” according to documents.
Agriculture Director Dave Daniels told members of the Controlling Board that he envisioned a large, flat-floored storage building with 40-60 cages. Sedated animals would be driven directly into the facility. Construction is expected to be completed before the end of the year.
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.”
Existing owners in both categories are banned from acquiring new animals, though they can keep existing ones as long as they register 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 held illegally. The new law took effect earlier this month, and animal registration forms are now available online at www.agri.ohio.gov.
Daniels said a new board created as part of the new dangerous-wild-animal law will be formed in coming months to develop rules and contingency plans that would affect the new facility.