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State must regulate exotic animals

The recent Zanesville tragedy involving a man who released his lions, tigers, and other dangerous animals and subsequently committed suicide is no doubt a sad story.

This disastrous event has put a global spotlight on Ohio and its policies toward the ownership of exotic animals.

Because the owner was a private citizen, who did not display these animals to the public, it appears that he fell below the radar of federal regulations.

Still, it is important to note that under current law any person who knowingly puts another individual in jeopardy could be charged with negligent homicide.

However, the man responsible was just released from prison, so it is unclear whether a law would have prevented his behavior.

What is clear is that new regulations need to be put in place. The owner was able to function under Governor Strickland’s executive order to control the possession of exotic animals.

Governor Kasich allowed this order to lapse when it became evident that its language was unenforceable. Fortunately, the governor already had a group actively developing legislation to present to the General Assembly, and it should be ready for review by the end of November.

Although common sense tells us that a private citizen should not hold ownership of 18 Bengal tigers, legislators are walking a legal tightrope when developing new bills to deal with this issue. Anytime the House debates issues concerning animals, especially pets, the discussion is very difficult to navigate.

I applaud the Kasich administration for taking the time to understand the intricacies of the situation before jumping into the political fray.

Too often when an incident occurs, there is a rush to introduce legislation that draws headlines, but may have adverse or unintended consequences.

As of now, some of the ideas for consideration reportedly include requiring liability bonds and standards for proper care of animals.

This will not be an easy debate to resolve because the treatment and regulation of animals becomes an emotional issue.

For instance, there are folks already saying that deer cause more damage than exotic animals. While this argument may be true, no one has ever been eaten by a deer.

There will also be people who want to talk about pit bulls and gamecocks. As you can see, letting the cats out of the cage could lead to a real dogfight in Columbus.

My advice is to stick to the task at hand regarding exotic animals and leave all those other issues for another day.

John Carey serves in Ohio’s 87th District of the House of Representatives, which includes eastern Lawrence County. He can be reached at (614) 466-1366, by writing to: Ohio House of Representatives, 77 S. High St., Columbus, OH 43215, or via e-mail at District87@ohr.state.oh.us.