Julie Carr Smyth
COLUMBUS: Exiting Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland ordered a ban on new dangerous pets Thursday, in one of the last states to allow them to be owned with few restrictions.
In an emergency executive order, Strickland called for a ban on the future ownership, breeding, sale, trade or barter of wild animals ''that are dangerous to human health and safety.'' People who already own exotic pets will now have to register them with the state and will be barred from breeding or selling their boas, chimpanzees, tigers, bears and other wild animals.
The order fulfills Strickland's end of a deal brokered by his administration with the Humane Society of the United States, other animal rights groups and Ohio's agribusiness industry. The agreement prompted the Humane Society to withdraw a ballot issue containing a litany of restrictions on pet ownership and treatment and livestock care.
In a statement, he said the agreement ''will keep Ohio's vital agriculture industry profitable while appropriately updating animal care standards.''
''This rule will help protect Ohioans from deaths and serious injuries caused by attacks from dangerous wild animals held in private ownership,'' he said.
In August, an animal trainer in Lorain County was mauled to death in a well-publicized attack by a black bear. The animal was properly registered under existing Ohio law.
But the state has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them, an Associated Press review last year found.
Humane Society president and CEO Wayne Pacelle commended Strickland's order in a statement Thursday.
''Dangerous wild animals do not belong in the backyards and basements of private citizens,'' he said. ''It's bad for the animals and dangerous for people. This emergency order is good for Ohio, and we look forward to seeing it implemented in the months ahead.''
Strickland's order, signed on his next to last business day in office, is only effective for 90 days. It will be up to Gov.-elect John Kasich whether to keep the restrictions in place. Kasich takes office Monday.
The Humane Society had threatened to revisit its ballot issue if terms of its deal with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and other agriculture interests weren't met by Dec. 31. The measure would have placed restrictions on the crating and care of livestock that raised concern among farmers. Instead, farm groups spearheaded creation of a state livestock care standards board that is now up and running and hammering out standards with input from both sides.
It requires owners who want to keep exotic pets they have now to register the animals by May 1, and once a year after that. It exempts certain zoos and animal preserves from the ban on ownership, breeding and sale.
The ban will be carried out by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife.