For some Americans, the lure of exotic animals extends beyond seeing these creatures at a zoo or other facility to the desire to own them. Most states have strict regulations - and some outright bans - on exotic pet ownership.
Ohio has some of the weakest regulations in the nation, a deficit lawmakers have been attempting to correct. This took on new urgency last October when Zanesville resident Terry Thompson let 56 animals he owned - including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers - escape from their enclosures on his farm. Thompson then took his own life. During the next few hours, the animals created terror in the area and, unfortunately, all but a handful were necessarily killed by law enforcement officials.
This tragic situation put a new and increased focus on Ohio's lack of regulations and the legislature has attempted to create rules to prevent this from happening again by banning new ownership of exotic pets and requiring current owners to obtain a state-issued permit and pay fees.
However, the Ohio Association of Animal Owners - a group of exotic pet owners with approximately 8,000 members - wants the current bill killed because they say it's unfair for them to be required to meet requirements and exempt zoos and research facilities.
The obvious and ongoing problem with ownership of these types of animals is many of the owners find they are unable, or unwilling, to care for the animals once they mature. It is extremely difficult to find a facility to take any of the animals when they are fully grown. Unfortunately, many are just turned loose - with disastrous results.
In Florida, so many Giant Burmese pythons have been turned loose in the Everglades, there is now a sustaining breeding population established there. It has devastated native species, such as foxes, marsh rabbits, raccoons and many types of the beautiful waterfowl that draw so many people to the Everglades.
And unfortunately, when these large snakes are captured, most have to be destroyed because, as we mentioned, there are few facilities willing to take them.
Ohio is right to make exotic pet ownership difficult, if not impossible. In our opinion, it should be difficult, if not impossible in all states.