COLUMBUS, Ohio, March 28 (UPI) -- Dozens of exotic animal owners turned out at a state legislative hearing to oppose attempts to regulate the ownership and sale of exotic animals in Ohio.
A state senator based the proposal largely on recommendations of a committee appointed by Gov. John Kasich after an incident Oct. 18 in which more than 50 animals -- including lions, tigers and bears -- were freed by their owner, and 48 of them had to be shot by law enforcement officers to protect the public, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch reported.
The measure would allow private owners to keep exotic animals but not acquire new ones after a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline. The owners would have to register their animals with the state, pay fees, obtain liability insurance coverage from $250,000-$1 million and implant microchips to identify the animals in case of escape.
Snake owners could keep their snakes but would have to comply with tighter regulations, including paying registration fees, obtaining insurance and putting warning signs on their property.
"No private owner will be able to keep their animals as this bill is written," Evelyn Shaw of Pataskala said at the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee hearing Tuesday. "This bill would either cause the death of my animals or force me to go from a law-abiding citizen to a criminal."
Kimberly Wilhelm of the Peoples Constitution Coalition of Ohio said the measure would violate the Ohio constitution, infringe on her "inalienable rights to private property," hurt businesses and cost jobs.
The Dispatch said Ohio is one of a handful of states that don't regulate buying, selling and ownership of exotic animals.
The Ohio measure has won support from officials at Akron, Cleveland and Toledo zoos.