Federal judge upholds Ohio's new exotic animal law

A federal judge upheld Ohio's new restrictions on exotic animals Thursday after several owners sued the state over the law, which was enacted after a man released dozens of his wild creatures last year before committing suicide.
Associated Press
Dec 20, 2012


U.S. District Court Judge George Smith in Columbus sided with the state, saying that the court recognizes some businesses may be negatively affected and some owners may not be able to keep their beloved animals but that the owners failed to prove constitutional rights were violated.

The court said the case came down to the public interest and protecting the public from potential dangers of exotic animals.

"While the named Plaintiffs may be responsible dangerous wild animal owners, there are some that are not," the ruling said.

Ohio officials have defended the law as a common-sense measure to address the growing safety problem of private ownership of exotics animals.

The state "felt all along like this law was in the best interest of the public and public safety, and in the health and the welfare of these animals, and the judge reaffirmed that," Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said.

The attorney for the seven owners who sued the state wasn't immediately available to comment.

Those owners said the new regulations force them to join private associations and possibly give up their animals without compensation. They also challenged a requirement that animals be implanted with a microchip before being registered with the state, so the creatures can be identified if they get lost or escape.

The Humane Society of the United States, which joined the case to defend the law, praised the ruling.

Lawmakers worked with a renewed sense of urgency to strengthen Ohio's regulations after a suicidal owner released dozens of creatures last year from an eastern Ohio farm in Zanesville. Authorities killed 48 of the animals, which included black bears, Bengal tigers and African lions, fearing for the public's safety.

Owners, animal experts and state authorities were among those who testified before the judge during a three-day hearing in mid-December.

Owner Cyndi Huntsman told the judge the microchip requirement amounted to a death sentence for some of her creatures because of the anesthesia required for the procedure. She feared animals with health problems or those who are older won't wake up from sedation.

The state argued in court documents that a microchip is "no larger than one or two grains of rice" and is typically injected in a minimally invasive procedure no different than vaccinating.

While the law took effect in September, some aspects have yet to kick in. For instance, a permit process for owners won't begin until next October.

Current owners wanting to keep their animals must obtain the new state-issued permit by Jan. 1, 2014. They must pass background checks, pay fees, obtain liability insurance or surety bonds and show inspectors that they can properly contain the animal and care for it. Otherwise, they will be banned from having them.

The law exempts sanctuaries, research institutions and facilities accredited by some national zoo groups, such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Zoological Association of America.




Wild animals should be kept in their natural habitats and not be sources of income for these ego-centric owners.


Yes. But many species are running out of suitable habit as humans overrun and destroy the planet.

Tigers now survive in less than 10% of their previous range.

There are probably less than 10 Northern White Rhinos, because we kill them for their horns. They are now thought to be a distinct species. They probably can't recover and if so are extinct.

We don't just keep taking away Gorilla habitat; we also eat them.

We continually exterminate species we don't even know exist through habitat distruction.

Meanwhile, we add about 80 million to our population each year.

The World Health Organization estimates that one-third of the world is well-fed [or over-fed], one-third is under-fed, and one-third is starving; over 4 million will die this year.

Should we be worried? Yes! But about what?

There was such hysteria over a few captive critters getting loose, but that seems trivial compared to the big picture.

nosey rosey

The state passes a law due to a knee jerk reaction of what some idiot does, a law that affects only a handful of people in this state. Yet they refuse to make forms of animal cruelty a felony in the same state - actions that are happening every single day. It makes no sense.


nosey - the law they passed seems to be about keeping PEOPLE safe. What you are talking about keeps ANIMALS safe. That's the difference. Not agreeing or disagreeing, just saying...