Ohio governor: Ban exotic wild animal auctions

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - November 21, 2011

Gov. John Kasich told the group during their Oct. 31 meeting that no one should own animals such as bears or primates. He also called for a ban on auctions where exotic wild animals are sold, and suggested that fees for keeping the creatures be significant.

The group has been meeting privately since June and has been holding expedited meetings since last month, when police were forced to kill 48 wild animals - including endangered Bengal tigers - after their owner freed them from his Zanesville farm and then committed suicide.

The study panel faces a Nov. 30 deadline to make recommendations for updating Ohio's laws. Its latest minutes were released late last week.

Kasich emphasized to the members that he doesn't want any nonsense, according to the minutes. He said he wants a strong ban and fees that underscore the seriousness of what it takes to have such beasts.

The working group includes 10 organizations with a stake in the issue, among them the Ohio Association of Animal Owners, the Ohio Farm Bureau, the Zoo Association of America and the state's natural resources department.

Members of the group have told The Associated Press that their recommendations likely will include a ban on new ownership of lions, tigers and other dangerous animals. Existing owners would be allowed to keep such wildlife under new permit rules.

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets. Efforts to strengthen the regulations took on new urgency after farm owner Terry Thompson opened his cages and let his animals out on Oct. 18.

Police officers fatally shot dozens of the animals, but three leopards, two monkeys and a young grizzly bear survived. They have been quarantined at the Columbus zoo, where they continue to be under observation, said Erica Pitchford, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Agriculture.

Zoo and state officials are trying to develop the animals' medical history and determine whether they are healthy enough to begin being tested for diseases, Pitchford said in an interview Monday.

The animals must be anesthetized to have blood drawn. And there's a concern that if they put them to sleep before their strong enough, they might not survive.

The state's Department of Agriculture ordered the animals be kept under quarantine at a zoo after Thompson's widow had sought to reclaim them. There's no expiration date on the quarantine, and no timeline for the testing to occur, Pitchford said.

"Until everyone feels confident about how to go about putting those animals to sleep, we are going to continue to observe them and try to get them as healthy as possible," Pitchford said.

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