Ohio’s exotic animal control law aims to balance public safety, owner rights
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Q: What is the Exotic Animal Control Law?
A: The Exotic Animal Control Law (EACL) is a new law in Ohio that restricts and regulates the ownership and use of what are called “exotic” animals. The law defines “exotic animals” to effectively include any nonhuman animal that is not ordinarily kept in households. Examples include wolves, tigers, snakes and non domesticated reptiles.
Q: What does the EACL require?
A: The EACL, signed into law on June 5, 2012, addresses the ownership and use of exotic animals by providing for “reasonable regulation of a highly risky, unpredictable activity with the potential for sudden and widespread harm” to the community. The EACL requires owners of exotic and dangerous animals to register and train them. Exotic animal owners and any facilities they might own and operate must be appropriately inspected and insured. Also, exotic animals must be cared for humanely and carefully and tracked (by means that include the use of microchips).
Some of the law’s rules have not yet been finalized. They include regulations about how exotic animals are to be transported and transferred from one permit holder to another, and provisions for a “dangerous and restricted animal fund” to be collected from permit applications and fines for the benefit of these animals.
Q: Why was the Exotic Animal Control Law passed in Ohio?
A: Many states have preceded Ohio in passing similar control laws. In Ohio, legislators proposed animal control laws in response to a 2011 incident near Zanesville involving more than 50 exotic animals that were suddenly released into the community by their owner. Law enforcement officers ultimately killed the released animals to protect the human population.
According to the language in Ohio’s Exotic Animal Control Law, this legislation was passed to provide a “reasonable balance” between the rights of exotic animal owners and the safety of the general public. Animal care professionals have reviewed the language and spirit of the bill, incorporating “best practices” into its requirements so that the potential danger and volatility associated with exotic animal ownership is reduced and the general public protected.
Q: If I own only a few exotic animals, does this law affect me?
A: Yes. Every Ohio citizen or anyone doing business in Ohio is assumed to be covered under the EACL. If you own any exotic animal, the EACL technically applies to you. If you own even one exotic animal, such as a boa constrictor or a wolf, be aware that you must bear responsibility for EACL-required licensing, training and maintenance, which can be expensive.
Q: Where can I find more information about exotic animal control laws?
A: You can find summaries of some of the exotic animal control laws in various states across the United States at www.bornfreeusa.org.
This column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) and prepared by Mark Bamberger, Ph.D., J.D., of The Mark Bamberger Co. LLC (offices in Tipp City, West Chester, Enon and Spring Valley). Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.
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