Wild animal law unheeded, costs state millions

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Until recently, there were more requirements to own a dog in Ohio than a tiger and you may be shocked to know just how many tigers live here.

“We have more tigers in the state of Ohio than there is left in India,” said wild animal advocate, Tim Harrison.

When the new year hit, it became illegal to own wild animals without a permit and registration.

A 2 NEWS Investigation found there are at least 50 registered wild animals in the Miami Valley and hundreds more throughout the state.  We found several of those owners are breaking the law, so 2 NEWS Investigates asked whether that new law designed to protect you is doing enough.

Search our database to find out how close these animals are living to you.
Search our database to find out how close these animals are living to you.

You may remember the images from 2011 when nearly 50 wild animals including lions, tigers and bears were set free from a Zanesville farm and were eventually shot to death.

The state implemented a new law aimed to keep you safe and informed about wild animals in your neighborhood, but we found the state knows of many owners who refuse to follow it.

If you pass Daniel Chamber’s home, you definitely know he has some unusual pets. Locked away in his backyard is a tiger, three bears and a mountain lion. The problem is these “pets” are now illegal for Chambers to own and he knows it.

“Nothing I have here is compliant,” Chambers explained.

State law says an owner must do two things to keep their dangerous wild animals:  First, register with the state, letting authorities and their neighbors know what animals they have and exactly where they are.

The second:  Get a permit, sometimes hundreds of dollars per animal, along with liability insurance and proper caging.

Some Miami Valley residents gave up their wild animals instead of complying with the new law.  An alligator was taken from a Huber Heights home in June and a bear was taken from a Covington back yard in July.

Chambers is breaking the law.  He registered and the state knows he has bears, a tiger and a mountain lion, but he refuses to get the permits.

“So, you did the registration, but you didn’t do the permits?” I asked.

“You can’t do the permits. You can’t afford them.  I’m a blue collar worker, I’ve got a family,” Chambers explained.

2 NEWS Investigates found Chambers is not the only one breaking the law.

According to numbers we obtained, the Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for enforcing the law, knows of several other wild animal owners who are not in full compliance.  So, we asked spokesperson, Erica Hawkins, why they’re not doing anything about it.

“We know that we are going to have to take action to make sure that those animals are secured and that situation is dealt with,” Hawkins said.

When?

“That’s going to depend.  I think that there are situations that are going to be more pressing at first, but the other thing to keep in mind is that there are a lot of unknown animals out there too,” she said.

Hawkins said it’s a slow and deliberate process and 2 NEWS Investigates found it’s a pretty expensive one.

So far, the state has spent $2.9 million on a temporary holding facility for confiscated animals.

“Is the state going to need to spend more money to make sure this is working properly?” I asked.

“I think that remains to be seen,” Hawkins said.  “The problem with the program is starting it from scratch.  It’s never existed before.  We’ve never had to enforce at this level before, so you can’t know how much it’s going to cost.”

While Hawkins says this law will keep you safe and let you know what wild animals might be in your neighborhood, Chambers thinks it was a knee jerk reaction to a very rare incident.

“Everybody in the state that owned these animals, we were all law-abiding citizens, but now we are criminals because we can’t afford these ridiculous upgrades.”

2 NEWS Investigates found there are at least four bobcats, nine alligators and five cougars registered right here in the Miami Valley. Are they in your neighborhood?

 

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