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April 04, 2011

Moment of Truth in Ohio: State Must Act to Help Animals and Uphold Agreement

Today, there’s at least a temporary retreat on the issue of keeping wild and dangerous animals in Ohio. The state, under new leadership with the election last November of John Kasich, has elected not to extend an emergency order to ban private citizens from acquiring new tigers, bears, chimpanzees, anacondas, and other powerful wild animals. That order was issued in early January by outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland, and it was one of eight reforms tied to a historic agreement between HSUS, leaders of major agricultural organizations in Ohio, and the governor. 

State officials said today that Gov. Kasich supports regulating this industry, and we hope he and his team move with all deliberate speed to adopt strong standards to stop people from keeping dangerous wild animals in their homes and backyards.

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Dangerous wild animals kept by private
citizens are a serious problem in Ohio.

Today, in response to Ohio’s announcement that the rule banning new acquisitions of dangerous animals will expire on April 6, HSUS issued a report called “Ohio’s Fatal Attractions,” documenting how bad it’s become in Ohio with respect to private ownership of large and powerful wild animals. For instance, Sam Mazzola still has a menagerie of dangerous animals in a suburban county near Cleveland, even though one of his bears killed a young man last year. Mazzola lost his USDA license, but there are no rules in Ohio that prohibit him from keeping lions, tigers, and other animals in his backyard. Other cases are documented in the report here.

It’s a big week for decision-making that affects animals in Ohio. Tomorrow, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board convenes to decide whether or not to approve five points of last year's agreement related to the care of farm animals. Last month, the Board voted to retreat on one key component of the agreement and to allow the continued extreme confinement of veal calves. We are hoping that the original decision, to forbid keeping calves in small crates, will be restored. About 4,700 Ohioans wrote to the Board urging the reinstatement of the rule, and we are optimistic about that outcome.

The eight-point agreement negotiated last year promised a historic advance on animal welfare issues in Ohio, providing a working example of newfound collaboration between us and agricultural organizations long at odds.  It’s important that we keep the momentum going and follow through on each element of the agreement, to fulfill the spirit of cooperation and to adopt sound animal welfare policies in the state.

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