Ohio's Position on Exotic Animal Ownership


As an Ohio resident, I can say that we have some really great things to offer tourists – beautiful lakes, wonderful cuisine, professional sports, world famous amusement parks, and even an upcoming mental_floss trivia show. (Shameless plug alert).

In addition to all those great attractions, it seems that we also offer people the chance to come face-to-face with incredibly dangerous, carnivorous animals like that big guy pictured above. Not just at the Jack Hanna's world-famous Columbus Zoo, but also perhaps in your backyard or in the grocery store parking lot.

You’ve probably heard by now about the tragic story that unfolded in rural Ohio, where dozens of exotic animals escaped (or were released) from the property of a private citizen who was found dead in his home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. As of this evening, CNN reported that many of the escaped animals had been killed, and one monkey remained at large.

Like many residents of the Buckeye state, I wasn’t aware this was even an issue until today's news. However, a little research uncovered a report called Ohio’s Fatal Attractions that was published by The Humane Society of the United States earlier this year. It contains a number of eye-raising passages, like this:

Due to the lack of regulation of dangerous wild animals in Ohio, many unqualified individuals across the state possess, breed, and sell these animals. This is a growing problem, as exotic animals are easily available from breeders, auctions, and Internet dealers.

And this:

…Since 1990, Ohio ranks fourth among the 50 states in dangerous incidents involving big cats, bears, and non?human primates that resulted in injury and death.

We do? The report even references the exact animal owner involved in this current situation as:

A man sentenced in 2005 to six months of house arrest and fined $2,870 for a conviction on abuse of animals claimed to have 21 tigers as well as lions and leopards.

As for the many stories I’ve seen that refer to Ohio’s exotic animal laws as among the most relaxed in the nation, it seems, as with most things, politics play a role. Just before leaving office earlier this year, Ohio’s Former Governor Ted Strickland enacted a series of animal control laws that would have restricted the "possession and sale of dangerous wild animals, specifically big cats, bears, wolves, non?human primates, large constricting and venomous snakes, and crocodilians."

However, the new administration promptly nixed the new regulations, proving once-and-for-all that even that pesky “let’s-not-get-mauled-by-ferocious-jungle-cats” issue is not enough to get politicians to reach across the aisle.

If you’re interested in seeing how restrictive your state is when it comes to lions and camels and other non-native species, Born Free USA has a state-by-state rundown.