Saturday, November 6, 2004

Don't go buy that lion yet

Campbell Co. considers ban on exotic pets

By Andrea Remke
Enquirer staff writer

NEWPORT - For those pondering keeping a giraffe, chimpanzee or hippopotamus as a household pet - you'd better hold off.

Campbell County is considering an ordinance banning them, along with other exotic and or dangerous animals, from the county.

Josh Wice, special assistant to Campbell County Fiscal Court, said the dangerous animal ordinance is a proactive measure.

"No problems have been brought to our attention," he said. "Other local governments are calling this a wild/exotic animal ban. We're calling it dangerous animals ... We're looking at any animal that poses danger or threat to humans."

Wice said the city's primary concern is with non-domesticated cats.

The ordinance outlines a list of more than 50 mammals and reptiles that are considered dangerous, including lions, leopards, bears, wolves, armadillos, kangaroos, gorillas, elephants, porcupines and some snakes.

Wice agreed some of the animals listed seemed outrageous for a household pet, but officials want to be thorough.

"The included (animals) are taken from examples of people across the country who have tried to keep these," he said.

The national Animal Protection Institute has urged state lawmakers to prohibit private possession of dangerous, exotic animals as pets. The Web site lists instances across the country in which exotic pets have caused harm, including in North Carolina where a boy was killed last December by his aunt's pet tiger and in North College Hill where a woman was killed by one of her 10 venomous snakes in September.

Terry Roth, vice president of animal sciences at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, said the zoo has received calls from humane society workers who are left to care for exotic animals but have no training to do so.

It's not uncommon for pet owners to be baffled by the care, as well.

"People who want an animal that is not domesticated have to have the expertise and background in order to keep the animal and themselves safe," Roth said.

There are some exceptions to the ordinance, including goats, ferrets, donkeys, domestic rats and gerbils, raccoons and skunks.

Other exemptions are in place for the Newport Aquarium and people who are members of the zoological community that deal with unusual or exotic animals.

Pam Lyons, husbandry director at the Newport Aquarium, said people have good intentions for an exotic pet but don't realize the investment it takes to adequately care for these animals.

"We get a lot of calls about alligators," she said. "They can be dangerous. They have sharp teeth and can become very large animals. We have people looking for people to rescue them."

Lyons said there are dangers in keeping monkeys and snakes as pets, too.

"Monkeys can easily transmit a disease which is dangerous to humans," she said.

Hospitals in the area only have certain antivenins for exotic snakes, she said. "If you get bit, there may be no way to get treatment in a timely manner."

Terry Baker, animal control officer at the Northern Kentucky Animal Control Board, enforces animal ordinances in seven Campbell County cities.

"We're having a lot of problems with wolf hybrids," she said. "Coyotes will breed with domestic dogs... We're trying to keep people from purposely breeding them."

Baker said there aren't many instances in Campbell County of exotic pets.

"I know of a guy who had a snake that was about 100 pounds," she said. "I thought, 'What if that got loose?' "

She frequently gets questions about what animals are allowed in cities.

"There was a guy who wanted to know if he could get an alligator in Fort Thomas," she said. "...I said no."


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