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Are tougher laws on owning exotic animals needed?

October 31st, 2011 7:44 am by Staff Report

News that more than 40 animals from a private zoo, many of them exotic big cats, had to be killed has left many Americans asking: “Why?” Why would anyone want to keep such animals in the first place? Why would they want to release such potentially dangerous animals into a populated area? And why weren’t methods other than destroying the animals taken to round them up?
In addition to looking for answers, many animal lovers were also seeking ways to help the surviving exotic animals from an Ohio farm where the owner opened the cages and then killed himself two weeks ago.
The Associated Press has reported that a tattoo artist raised more than $1,000 for the six animals that were captured and are now being cared for at the Columbus Zoo. Police shot to death 48 others, including 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions and eight bears.
Tattoo artist Billy White donated the proceeds from tattoos of tigers and other exotic animals that customers bought last week at his shop in Zanesville, the city near the farm where Terry Thompson operated his private zoo. Critics said the Ohio incident points out the need for stricter regulations for private ownership of exotic animals.
At least 20 exotic-animal farms are reported to exist in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich has come under fire recently for insufficient laws regulating the ownership of exotic beasts. Meanwhile, states like Maryland have laws that make all private zoos illegal.
Unlike Maryland, however, Virginia does allow ownership of big cats. Virginia law requires “a permit for big cats, bears and wolves with no regulation at all for primates,” the Humane Society said in a news release. Tennessee law is much stricter, with a specific provision prohibiting private ownership of dangerous wildlife.
Should there be tougher laws overseeing the private ownership of exotic animals?
Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification. We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.
You also can go to to cast a vote in the online poll. Results of the poll and comments from readers will appear on this page Nov. 8.

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