The Humane Society of Greater Dayton has expanded its rescue fund to include exotic animals in preparation for an influx of dangerous wild animals expected to be removed from homes next year, officials said this week.
As Ohio’s new laws related to exotic animals take full effect in January, the humane society said it expects to rescue more animals like an alligator that was found in the basement of a Huber Heights home on June 2.
It’s unclear how many private owners in the state have exotic animals. A Dayton Daily News examination of owners who registered their animals showed that 14 people own a total of 59 exotic animals in the region’s eight counties — Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Warren, Clark, Champaign, Butler and Preble.
But Tim Harrison, the director of Outreach For Animals, said it’s “really hard to put a number on” how many exotic animals are in the state. He estimated there are 2,000 lions, tigers, leopards and cougars, at least 1,000 bears, hundreds of alligators and there is no way to judge the number of venomous snakes.
Starting Oct. 1, owners of registered dangerous wild animals may apply for a permit from the Department of Agriculture. A valid permit is required to maintain ownership of any dangerous wild animal beyond Jan. 1, 2014.
The state has the right to seize the animals if owners can’t meet the new requirements or are denied a permit.
Once people realize they are breaking the law, they will either turn their animal loose or reach out to the humane society for assistance, Harrison said.
“It’s a great, smart move (by the humane society),” Harrison said. “There are so many exotics out there, not just dangerous ones but regular exotics, that once the law comes into effect, they’ll have no place to go.”
The rescue fund was created last year to raise money for emergency-related cases, said Brian Weltge, president and CEO of the Humane Society of Greater Dayton. It’s used for animals that are severely injured or part of cruelty/neglect investigations.
“There are a lot of people who claim they are unaware of the ban, and there’s also people who know of others who have exotics,” Weltge said. “We’re just anticipating much more activity in the upcoming months as it relates to exotics, and it won’t be unique to our area. It’s going to happen all over Ohio.”
The new state law — the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act — takes full effect Jan. 1, 2014. In the meantime, state officials have been phasing in certain aspects of the law, which Gov. John Kasich signed last June.
The first phase went into effect Sept. 5, prohibiting the sale or purchase of dangerous wild animals, including lions, tigers and bears. Owners of dangerous wild animals had until Nov. 5, 2012, to register them with the Department of Agriculture and have them tagged with a microchip.
Failure to register disqualifies an owner from receiving a permit by 2014.
“There is no provision for registering animals after that window closed,” said Erica Hawkins, spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture.
In the Huber Heights case, the alligator’s owner, David Keefer, had not registered the animal. The Humane Society of Greater Dayton pulled the alligator out of Keefer’s home on June 2 after getting a tip about mistreatment.
Officials said the alligator was not being kept in proper conditions nor was it on a proper diet. It is stunted in growth for its age and is showing other signs of health deterioration.
The alligator, believed to be 12 years old, is now at a rescue sanctuary in southern Florida, Harrison said. The animal cruelty investigation is ongoing, Weltge said.
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton is a nonprofit organization that does not receive any government funding. It relies solely on donations of individuals and companies, as well as grants, to fund its programs and services.
Broadening the scope of the rescue fund guarantees the best possible care for all animals without straining the organization’s funds, the group said in a release.
How to Donate
Phone: 937-268-PETS (7387)
More to the story
The Dayton Daily News has covered the issue of exotic animals extensively for more than a year. We will continue to follow the issue closely and bring you the latest news as it develops.