In a news conference this afternoon Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced a statewide crackdown on exotic animals just days after more than 50 animals escaped in Zanesville. Of the animals, 49 were killed in the fiasco, which garnered national media attention and renewed scrutiny of Ohio's exotic-animal laws.
In the three-tier plan, Kasich said he wants county humane societies to take advantage of thier ability to arrest people involved in animal cruelty. He also has called for a temporary moratorium on all exotic-animal auctions.
"There is one auction house in the state of Ohio that deals with exotic animals, and they sent us a handwritten letter ... and agreed not to auction off exotic animals," James Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. "This will stay on our frontburner."
The tiers involve investigation, updating laws and providing Ohioans an oppotunity to self-report potential danger regarding the ownership of such animals.
The plan will focus on updating current Ohio laws regarding exotic-animal regulation, which gives the state little authority with regard to non-native animals.
"If you have a guy that has lions inside of a compound that can jump over the wire and break into your house, that's an issue of public safety," Kasich said.
The governor said he is asking for proposals to reform state laws regarding the sale, auction and ownership of exotic animals.
Kasich let an order restricting the ownership of exotic animals expire this spring, arguing that it lacked legal authority.
Activists have complained that Ohio has some of the nation's most lax regulations on exotic pets.
The Ohio Department of National Resources will conduct inspections of all animal permit holders, who have licensed animals native to Ohio, to see whether they have other animals.
However, as the law is written now, the state's hands are tied because it has no jurisdiction over non-native species.
"We don't have authority except for native species," Kasich said.
The state also plans to set up a hotline so residents concerned about exotic animals being housed near them can alert authorities.