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ZANESVILLE, Ohio — A task force group to decide how exotic animal ownership will be regulated in Ohio will likely see an increase in activity on the heels of the Muskingum County exotics incident.
Scott Zody, assistant director for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, told reporters Wed. Oct. 19 he expects a draft version of regulations to be completed in 30 days, about a month-and-a-half sooner than previously expected.
The recent events are “going to help expedite those efforts,” Zody said.
But, it could still be several months or years before regulations are official, because they first must be introduced to the legislature and approved.
An executive order signed by former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland put new restrictions on ownership of dangerous wild animals, but was left to expire by Gov. John Kasich, over concerns the state did not have legal power to control the ownership of exotic animals, as specified in the executive order.
The task force group is comprised of animal owners and parties concerned over private ownership of exotic animals, including Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Humane Society of the United States, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and the Ohio Association of Animal Owners.
Under current Ohio law, ODNR is limited to regulating “native wildlife,” said Bill Damschroder, ODNR’s chief legal counsel. Exotic animals are not native.
“(ODNR) had no legal authority to enforce an emergency rule in those terms,” he said.
Getting it right
Although the process will be expedited, ODNR officials said it is important not to enact “onerous” regulations that could potentially worsen or provoke similar acts among current exotic animal owners.
“We do not want to see this episode repeated anywhere in the state of Ohio,” Zody said.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture advises farmers in the area to ensure their own safety first. There had been some initial concern about the well-being of livestock, but the number of loose animals is quickly shrinking — now down to two or three.
“At this point its been a matter of asking the locals of what resources they need,” said ODA Communications Director Andy Ware. “They’re (local law enforcement) really focussed on the immediate need of finding all the animals that have escaped.”
Ware said the euthanized animals should be disposed of properly, either buried four feet deep or taken to an appropriate landfill. He said ODA also has made provisions to accept dead animals and handle the disposal.