Ohio’s dangerous wild animal ownership regulations included in Senate Bill 310 (Balderson) went into effect September 5, 2012, requiring owners to register their animals with the Ohio Department of Agriculture. The bill is the result of the release of more than 50 wild animals in Zanesville in October 2011 by their owner, who then committed suicide. That release had the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office asking everyone to stay inside as deputies and animal experts searched for tigers, leopards and bears, among other animals. Most of the animals were killed by deputies. The new law requires owners to register their animals with the department and to have a microchip implanted in each animal and restricted snake by November 5, 2012. The bill also limits the trade in wild animals and prohibits the release of animals into the wild. Starting January 1, 2014, possession of dangerous wild animals and restricted snakes will be prohibited unless the owner qualifies for an exemption included in Senate Bill 310 or is granted permission by the department.
As part of its preparation for enforcement of the bill, the Department of Agriculture received approval to build a temporary housing facility for confiscated or seized animals, the only known state-owned facility of its kind in the country. The state has approved a $3.5 million project budget, for the facility to include a 22,000- to 30,000-square-foot building within a prison-grade security fence. The facility will be located behind the Department’s headquarters in suburban Columbus, causing some residents to question the safety of such a facility so near homes and businesses. Director David Daniels said state officials decided to build after they were unable to find a private facility to partner with should the state need to seize animals.