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Reasonable rules on wild animals must be adopted

March 21, 2012
Salem News

Regulating ownership of wild animals seemed like a relatively simple thing for Ohio state government to do in the aftermath of the tragedy last fall that made the need for new rules clear. It has not turned out to be so easy.

The necessity for new restrictions was made apparent in October, when a disturbed Zanesville-area man released scores of animals from their enclosures, then killed himself. To safeguard the public, the local sheriff's department was forced to kill 48 of the creatures, including Bengal tigers, lions, bears and wolves.

State Sen. Tony Balderson, R-Zanesville, quickly introduced a bill to mandate more responsibility among those who own wild animals. It would ban new ownership of exotic creatures after Jan. 1, 2014.

Those who already own animals covered by the bill would be allowed to keep them - but would have to meet strict requirements. Among them would be purchase of liability insurance, payment of fees up to $2,000, and implantation of microchips under the animals' skins.

That sparked a storm of protest last week in Columbus. Some owners of wild animals said they cannot afford to comply with the proposed rules. One threatened to leave Ohio.

Another vowed to "go underground, and there are plenty of people who will go with me."

We feel sorry for some people who own animals such as those killed near Zanesville. Some have rescued the creatures from less responsible owners. Some spend lots of their own money to safeguard animals that have become rare outside captivity.

But too many are mere collectors who see the animals as novelties.

There are many reasons why a bill such as Balderson's needs to be enacted. Preventing attacks on the public is just one of them.

So every effort should be made to accommodate responsible owners of wild animals. At some point, however, reasonable new rules must be adopted.



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