On October 19, 2011, fifty-six (56) wild animals were set loose from their cages by the owner of a private farm in Zanesville, Ohio prior to his suicide. To protect the public and prevent an additional community tragedy, the Sheriff's officers shot and killed 49 animals, including Bengal tigers (an endangered species), lions, black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves and a baboon. On Oct. 21, Ohio Governor John Kasich issued an Executive Order instructing state agencies to use existing but underused legal powers in innovative ways to address threats to animal welfare and public health and safety, as well as better support the enforcement efforts of local officials.
This incident serves as a reminder to public officials that private ownership of wild animals should be limited or prohibited. The AVMA supports regulatory efforts to prohibit private ownership (and the importation for the purpose of private ownership) of native and non-native animals that threaten public health, domestic animal health, indigenous wild animal health, agriculture, or the ecosystem, as well as those species whose welfare is unacceptably compromised. The AVMA policy on Private Ownership of Wild Animals is available on the AVMA website.
Some U.S. states lack robust oversight of private ownership of wild animals. On October 28, 2011, the AVMA sent the following letters to the governors of Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin to urge their administrations to strengthen regulations restricting private ownership of these species.
Letter to the Governor of Alabama (PDF)Letter to the Governor of Idaho (PDF)Letter to the Governor of Nevada (PDF)Letter to the Governor of North Carolina (PDF)Letter to the Governor of South Carolina (PDF)Letter to the Governor of West Virginia (PDF)Letter to the Governor of Wisconsin (PDF)