Ohio governor to sign order on "dangerous animals"

COLUMBUS, Ohio Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:02pm EDT

1 of 8. Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz (L) and Columbus Zoo director emeritus Jack Hanna speak to the media in Zanesville, Ohio October 19, 2011. Dozens of exotic animals including tigers, lions and bears were let loose on Ohio farmland by their owner before he committed suicide, sparking a shoot-to-kill hunt in which 48 of the wild beasts, including 18 endangered Bengal tigers, were killed.

Credit: Reuters/Matt Sullivan

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Ohio Governor John Kasich plans to sign an executive order on Friday covering "dangerous wild animals," days after a collector caused a panic by releasing dozens of tigers, lions, bears and other animals.

The governor's office said Kasich, a first-term Republican, planned to sign and discuss an executive order on Friday afternoon, a day after two state lawmakers said they would propose legislation to restrict private ownership of dangerous exotic animals.

Kasich had let lapse a rule put in place by his Democratic predecessor Ted Strickland in January that restricted private breeding and purchase of exotic animals and stripped ownership rights from people convicted of animal cruelty.

A spokesman for Kasich said Strickland's rule was correct in principle but not enforceable and raised doubts about whether Ohio could restrict ownership of non-native wild animals. It also made no provision for dealing with seized animals.

Kasich had set up a task force which was expected to make recommendations in a month.

Ohio is one of seven states that does not restrict ownership of such exotic animals. The others are North and South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Terry Thompson, 62, apparently released 56 animals from his collection on Tuesday and then killed himself at his farm near Zanesville, Ohio.

Authorities hunted down and killed 49 of the animals and buried them on Thompson's property. Three leopards, a young grizzly bear and two macaque monkeys were recaptured and sent to the Columbus Zoo animal hospital.

The animals hunted down included 18 Bengal tigers, which are endangered, and numerous adult lions.

Schools were closed, residents told to remain inside and emergency signs posted warning motorists to stay in their cars while authorities searched for the missing animals.

Animal welfare groups pleaded in the aftermath of the panic for tighter restrictions or a ban on private ownership of exotic animals.

Federal law regulates the interstate transport of big cats, but states regulate their ownership. A similar federal law on the transport of primates failed to pass Congress.

(Writing by David Bailey; Editing by Greg McCune)

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