Federal judge upholds Ohio’s new exotic-animal law

Friday, December 21, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A federal judge upheld Ohio’s new restrictions on exotic animals yesterday after several owners had sued the state over the law, which was enacted after a man released dozens of his wild creatures including lions and tigers last year and then committed suicide.

U.S. District Judge George Smith in Columbus sided with the state, saying that although the court recognized some businesses may be harmed and some owners may not be able to keep their beloved animals, the owners failed to prove constitutional rights were violated.

The court said the case came down to the public interest and protecting the public from potential dangers of exotic animals.

“While the named Plaintiffs may be responsible dangerous wild animal owners, there are some that are not,” the ruling said.

Ohio officials have defended the law as a common-sense measure to address the growing safety problem of private ownership of exotic animals.

The seven owners who sued the state were disappointed by the decision and planned to appeal, said their attorney, Robert Owens.

Those owners said the new regulations force them to join private associations and possibly give up their animals without compensation. They also challenged a requirement that animals be implanted with microchips before being registered with the state, so the creatures can be identified if they get lost or escape.

The Humane Society of the United States, which joined the case to defend the law, praised the ruling.

Current owners who want to keep their animals must obtain the new state-issued permits by Jan. 1, 2014. They must pass background checks, pay fees, obtain liability insurance or surety bonds and show inspectors they can properly contain the animals and care for them. Otherwise, they will be banned from having them.

The law exempts sanctuaries, research institutions and facilities accredited by some national zoo groups.

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