The state wants to build a zoo like facility that would temporarily house the exotic animals that will be confiscated under a new state law that is about to take affect. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles, Erika Pitchford of the Ohio Department of Agriculture explains why the state is looking at this option.
Pitchford: With the new law that goes into effect in September, one of the duties that the new law gives the state department of agriculture is to seize animals that are found to be held outside the purview of the law. So when we started thinking through what are we going to do if we have to seize a couple of lions in their backyard and they don’t have a permit and they can’t leave them there….that’s a public safety issue….what are we going to do with them. We looked around and had thought through some different scenarios. We had talked about zoos, sanctuaries, wildlife areas but in the end we kept coming back to this idea of a single facility, centrally located that would be under the control of the state veterinarian and the department.
Ingles: So how much are you talking about in building this and how big would it be…that sort of thing?
Pitchford: They are still looking at the figures so I don’t have a dollar amount as to what it would cost. But we are looking at something that would be capable of holding dozens of animals if necessary and we are talking about species that would range from the dangerous exotic animal or the snake list.
Ingles: Doesn’t this kind of put the state into the position of being a zookeeper?
Pitchford: I don’t know if I would refer to that but if these animals are coming in to our care and our control, we’ve got veterinarians on hand that will give them that care. And they will be kept here until a more permanent placement can be found with them. The ultimate goal will be to find them a better permanent placement in a sanctuary somewhere. The building we are looking at constructing would be secure and it will be of sufficient space for the animals to be inside but it’s not going to be an ideal long term home. We’d much rather have them in a place where they can roam around and have a little more space, a little more freedom so in the end that would be the goal.
Ingles: But are there places out there like that that are available? I’d assume there probably are not or you wouldn’t be talking about this option if there were, right?
Pitchford: Right, exactly, there are sanctuaries that are scattered throughout the state and the country but they are far apart and they only have space for a few animals at the most. It’s really going to be a means of trying to connect these animals to a better, permanent long term home and in the instance that there is a need to house a number of animals, there was a concern about having to find a placement for them easily enough without a safety hazard and that can’t be done without a place to take them.
Pitchford says the cost analysis on the proposed facility is being done now. She says there is a strong sentiment that the animals that are confiscated as a result of this law should not be euthanized. The Ohio legislature would have to approve the funds for this project.