Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 14, 2011

Exotic animal ban

HSUS proposal merits consideration

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Legislation sought by the state director of the Humane Society of the United States would impose a logical ban on the ownership of species of large, exotic animals such as lions, tigers, leopards, multiple species of poisonous and highly venomous snakes and non-human primates.

In light of recent national headlines, including a tragic incident in Zanesville, Ohio, where a large collection of exotic animals were freed by their owner, we believe the HSUS proposal is logical and merits strong consideration by state lawmakers.

Summer Wyatt, a native of Princeton, said the Humane Society felt the legislation was needed after the incident in Ohio. The legislation as currently proposed would allow a grandfather clause for any exotic animals already owned in the state. However, the owners of such animals would be required to keep up-to-date medical records and alert the cities and counties where they live about what type of exotic animals they own.

Unfortunately, the incident in Zanesville wasn’t an isolated event. Wyatt said cases where exotic animals have gotten loose have also been reported in the Mountain State. That’s why the Humane Society is hoping to have proactive legislation passed in order to ensure the safety of both citizens and the animals.

“I feel this needs to be done because issues such as what happened in Ohio could happen in any state where there are no laws against this sort of thing,” Wyatt said. “We have heard of a boa constrictor that got loose, a primate that chased a postal worker and hunters who reported a lion that had escaped and was roaming the woods. This is not only a dangerous thing to see, but could be dangerous to people. I think this is a security issue as well as knowing your neighbors literally don’t have a tiger in their backyard.”

We agree. We see no reason why lawmakers in Charleston would oppose such a good, common-sense measure.

No one enjoyed watching the television coverage, or seeing the disturbing newspaper photographs, of sheriff’s deputies in Ohio having to shoot and kill nearly 50 lions, tigers, monkeys and other wild animals that were released by their owner, who later took his own life. What played out in the press in Ohio seemed more like a Hollywood movie than reality.

While watching these animals be slaughtered on television was tragic, police had no other choice. Had the lions, tigers and black bears been allowed to roam freely, innocent citizens could have been harmed or killed.

All states, including the West Virginia Legislature, should consider legislation to ensure that we won’t see at repeat of the tragic headlines from this past October. The HSUS proposal should become law in the state of West Virginia.