The Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) maintains an active role in the oversight of local wild and exotic animals. Through our Animal Venue Program, all locations that sell or exhibit these animals to the public are required to obtain an Animal Venue Permit and comply with public health and safety standards set forth in the Cuyahoga County Board of Health Animal Venue Regulations. These regulations serve to ensure that basic provisions are in place to prevent injuries and diseases that can be transmitted by animals. However, little oversight exists for private ownership of wild and exotic animals. While these animals may offer unique opportunities for education and entertainment, they also have the unfortunate potential to expose people to disease and inujury, with risks that vary in nature from mild to fatal.
In response to the recent tragedy in Muskingum County involving dangerous wild animals, Gov. John R. Kasich issued an Executive Order instructing state agencies to use existing but underused legal powers in innovative ways to address threats to animal welfare and public health and safety, as well as better support the enforcement efforts of local officials.
The governor instructed his Administration officials to scour Ohio law for existing powers to regulate animal welfare and protect the public’s health and safety. Although several powerful legal tools were identified, they appear to be underused. Ohio will work with local law enforcement and public officials, as well as humane societies, to better apply existing animal welfare and public health laws in innovative, aggressive ways until more specific laws regulating wild animals are enacted.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) regulates ownership of dangerous wild animals native to Ohio. ODNR was instructed to review existing permits to ensure proper compliance and perform onsite inspections to the fullest extent possible with existing resources. Additional resource needs will be identified for future enforcement efforts.
A safe and appropriate location to house confiscated or impounded dangerous wild animals is essential to enforcing existing animal cruelty and public health laws, as well as future Ohio laws regulating these animals. Ohio will work with zoos to identify their ability to accept animals that are confiscated or impounded and help meet their needs.
Ohio will also establish a toll-free hotline and website and work with local law enforcement agencies, veterinarians, county humane societies, and other stakeholders to identify potential problem locations where dangerous wild animals are kept so that the appropriate authorities can ensure all existing laws and regulations are being followed and enforced.
A task force including representatives of the Humane Society of the United States, county prosecutors, and veterinarians—led by the Department of Natural Resources—has been crafting a new legal framework for the General Assembly’s consideration that would give Ohio the authority to regulate dangerous wild animals. The task force completed its work and submit its Final Report to the Governor's office on November 30, 2012.
Links & Resources
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) - Wild Animals
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - Animal Care Program
USDA Guidelines for Animal Dealers, Exhibitors, Transporters and Researchers
Governor's Executive Order on Dangerous Wild Animals
Governor's Executive Order on Dangerous Wild Animals - Factsheet
Stacey Short, RS, MPH
(216)201-2000 ext 1253