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State: Exotic animal facility would be safe
Reynoldsburg officials say representatives from the Ohio Department of Agriculture have assured them a facility built for exotic animals will be secure.
The state department anticipates housing exotic animals just outside the Reynoldsburg city limits once the state of Ohio exotic animal law is enacted.
Officials say the facility, which must be approved by the Ohio Controlling Board and is projected to cost more than $1 million, will be located on a piece of vacant land behind the Ohio Department of Agriculture offices, 8995 E. Main St., in Reynoldsburg.
Plans for the size of the facility and projected completion have not been finalized.
The exotic animal law was approved earlier this year and stems from concerns about Ohio’s lenient laws on owning exotic animals, said Erica Pritchford, Ohio Department of Agriculture spokesman.
“It is on our property,” she said. “We own a large amount of land on the property with a six-foot perimeter around the whole length of the property.”
Currently the space is being leased by a farmer to grow corn. When the exotic animal law was passed earlier this year, Ohio Department of Agriculture officials began to think about where they could house animals that were seized, Pritchford said.
“Before the bill passed we started to anticipate our responsibility,” she said. “We were going to be asked to seize animals held outside the law. If someone has a tiger with a chain around its neck strapped to a dog house, it’s not something we feel comfortable with.”
Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud said he received a call last week informing him of the plan to keep the exotic animals in Reynoldsburg.
“They ensured me it would be well constructed and well-maintained and they hoped they didn’t have to use it a lot,” he said.
Reynoldsburg Acting Police Chief Jim O’Neill said with establishment of the wild animal sanctuary, the city of Reynoldsburg won’t have to deal with exotic animals.
“Speaking for most people in the city, I think there would be more concern if the state wasn’t running (the facility),” he said.
O’Neill said the city has a long-standing ordinance against possession of exotic animals or endangered species, but exotic animals aren’t usually an issue in the city. A couple of years ago there was a Reynoldsburg couple who owned a couple of snakes and spiders in their apartment.
“Those (incidents) are few and far between,” he said.
Pritchford said the new state law requires exotic animal owners to have insurance, adequate fencing and caging, and maintain a relationship with a veterinarian.
The state does not have the authority to confiscate animals from owners who are meeting requirements, but will confiscate animals when there is a potential for something to go wrong.
“It is going to be a temporary holding facility until the owner comes back into compliance, makes upgrades or repairs or until we find a permanent home for them in a sanctuary or a rescue,” Pritchford said.
Before Terry Thompson released several wild animals including lions and tigers near Zanesville before killing himself last October, the state was revising its rules, Pritchford said.
“Currently there are no prohibitions,” she said. “The (law) will require anyone keeping (exotic animals) to meet United States Department of Agriculture and American Zoological Association standards.”
The October incident accelerated the time frame to update the regulations, she said. Committee members met a couple of times a week to expedite creation of the law.
Exotic animals owners will be required to begin registering their animals Sept. 3, when the law goes into effect, she said. State officials have been receiving calls from animal owners throughout the entire process to make sure they comply with the law.
To get more information about the law log on to www.ohioagriculture.gov and click on the “dangerous wild animal link.”
Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Senate Bill 310, into law on June 5.
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