A positive aspect presents itself in the wake of Ohio’s wildlife tragedy in the form of legislation to ban "ownership" of inherently dangerous species and endangered animals as "pets." On October 21, 2011, Governor Kasich of Ohio issued a statewide Executive Order that pledged to work closely with animal associations and law enforcement officials to better regulate the exotic pet trade and their ownership. Actions underway include statewide reviews of all exotic animal auctions and animal permit holders, with frequent visits to ensure that all mandatory safety requirements are in strict compliance. In addition, unregistered dangerous exotic animals are being removed and relocated to accredited sanctuaries.
The Executive Order is an emergency stopgap measure while Ohio Representative Debbie Phillips presents House Bill 352 (HB352) for enactment. The goals of HB352 are productive and proactive in reasoning with clear, uncomplicated initiatives. The Bill’s intention is “to prohibit the future acquisition of dangerous exotic animals.” People who already own such animals have 60 days from enactment to file for ownership review with the Division of Wildlife. If owners do not meet the lawful requirements, the animals are to be removed and relocated to wildlife appropriate programs. Those individuals who fail to comply will face prosecution. HB352 seeks to equally protect its citizens and the welfare of animals.
There are individuals, breeders, and peddlers who engage in dangerous exotic species trades that prefer to direct others to focus on the human dramas attached to exotic animal incidences and declare HB352 unjust. Irony notwithstanding, the more these factions point out the human errors involved the further they support the fundamental reasoning behind banishment legislation, which is humans are the wild card in the equation, not the animals. Aside from the sharp focus on the Ohio tragedy, from January to October 2011 there have been more than 470 incidences involving dangerous exotic pets within the United States. This is a strong argument that initiatives like HB352 are long overdue in the country.
There are those who do not understand why the escaped animals in Ohio were not tranquilized and recaptured, leaving some ambivalent towards HB352. This ambivalence is likely derived from all of the negative attention focused on the actions of law enforcement during the tragedy. The best way to bring about understanding is to review points of fact to find clarity. In the cases of big cats, bears, and wolves, it can take 8 minutes or more for a dart to take effect, if it takes at all. In that time a fight or flight response is triggered within the animal. When a frightened wild animal perceives itself as under attack, nature has built into the animal the ability to aggressively destroy its perceived predator(s), while attempting to gain distance.
Heavy in heart, Jack Hanna, a wildlife animal expert, stated that there was no other effective solution outside of the use of deadly force to ensure the safety of the community. To put this into perspective, inside one minute these predators are able to take down elephants, rhinos, giraffes, and hippos, which at a minimum weighs approximately ten times that of an average adult human male.
Simply because a wild animal is caged does not render it domesticated. When the Ohio animals were presented with an opportunity to regain their freedom, their natural instincts kicked in. Unfortunately, the precise set of unstable conditions existed that could have resulted in human devastation en mass, aside from the painful loss of 49 exquisite predators. The job of law enforcement is to protect and serve people, which it did.
Holding wild animals captive is a self-indulgent act that does not protect endangered species, as exotic tradesmen claim, and is an outright lose/lose situation. The reality is that outside of destroying nature’s predators with the use of firearms or decimating their habitats, humans have no dominion over them. Wild animals are not domesticated pets that voluntarily engage in interactions with humans. They belong to another part of reality to this world, separate from our own, yet connected.
While HB352 is a positive step forward, this effort needs to be a nationwide standard, as dangerous species and endangered wildlife are inappropriate to have as pets. It threatens community welfare, while further damaging humanitarian efforts to protect endangered species and deprives these animals of their natural birthrights.
For those interested in effectively preserving wildlife, please sign the Ban Private Ownership of Dangerous and Endangered Species Initiative.