MARIETTA - While ex-Gov. Ted Strickland's move Jan. 6 to ban private ownership of dangerous exotic animals likely won't have much of a ripple locally, there have been circumstances where area agencies have had to respond to just such a situation.
About a year ago, officers with the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley helped officials in Athens County chase down a loose zebra that had been sighted in Washington County. And about four years ago, there was an alligator living in a dog run at the shelter until it could be transfered to a zoo, said shelter manager Steve Herron.
The ban could, potentially, lead to similar circumstances, Herron said.
"Let's say down the road, somebody has a large boa and they can't keep it. ... We could see ourselves ending up with those," he said. "We'll do our best to find a zoo or sanctuary or somewhere where the state permits so we don't have to destroy the animal. That's the last thing we want is to destroy any animals."
The ban by Strickland was one of his last official acts before the Democratic governor left office. His Republican successor, John Kasich, said he is at least initially inclined to honor that commitment.
Strickland's executive order allows existing private owners of lions, bears, wolves, tigers, apes, large constricting and poisonous snakes, crocodiles and other "dangerous wild animals'' to keep them if they register with the state by May 1. However, the rule bars them from breeding, selling or trading their animals. It also bars those who don't already own such an animal from doing so.
Ohio's lack of such a law received attention last August when a Lorain County trainer was killed by a bear owned by a man who has other large wild animals.
Since 2003, there have been at least 20 circumstances of exotic animals escaping captivity, being rescued by officials or attacking humans in Ohio, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
Karen Minton, the Ohio director for the Humane Society of the United States, said people often get these animals when they're small and relatively easy to handle.
"But people are rarely equipped to care for them in an appropriate manner when the animals grow up," she said.
Greg Sturm, acting dog warden of Washington County, said he's been involved in a few instances where he had to respond to an exotic animal at an area home.
"One was some kind of monkey-looking animal," he said. "I normally turn it over to the Ohio Department of Agriculture or the state veterinarian's office."
The temporary rule will last through March 6 while the legislative Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review considers permanent livestock and animal care rules.
The ban was part of a deal quietly brokered with the Strickland administration by the Washington-based Humane Society of the United States, which was marching toward a November 2010 ballot initiative to write into the Ohio Constitution new standards for the confinement and slaughter of cows, pigs and egg-laying poultry.
The constitutional amendment would have, among other things, prohibited the caging of such animals in a way that prevented them from lying down, standing, turning around or fully extending their limbs or wings.
Voters had approved a counter-amendment in 2009 pushed by the agricultural community and Strickland to create a statewide panel to write new standards.
But that didn't stop the humane society, which argued that the panel was dominated by factory farms that would use the effort to solidify the status quo.
It remains to be seen whether that portion of the deal will be honored by the new Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.