Updated Tue, Jun 18, 2013 1:26 pm
In response to the wild animal escape that happened in Zanesville in 2011, each county in Ohio will now have to create a Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team.
Gov. John Kasich drafted legislation creating stricter regulations for owning dangerous or exotic animals and requires each county to have a team and plan if a wild animal is released or escapes, said Tamara McBride, Chief of Public Affairs for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.
The bill was in direct response to Muskingum County resident Terry Thompson releasing 49 wild animals before taking his own life in December 2011. Muskingum County Sheriff Deputies responded to the escape and killed two wolves, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, a baboon, three mountain lions and 18 tigers.
Kasich signed Senate Bill 310 into law on June 5, 2012. It designated tigers, lions, bears, elephants, rhinos, alligators, crocodiles and certain types of monkeys as dangerous wild animals. It also made venomous snakes and anacondas and pythons 12 feet or longer classified as restricted snakes, according to the Ohio Dangerous Wild Animal Act.
According to the law, the response teams must have one representative from law enforcement, fire, first aid, emergency management, health, media, elected local officials, a dangerous wild animal owner, veterinarian and public health official.
The program is headed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and Ohio EMA is helping to implement the plans, McBride said.
“Teams are there so there is a clear understanding of what wild animals are in the state and county,” McBride said.
She added that the teams will create communication between different agencies in the county, and the plan will help prevent another tragedy like the one in Zanesville.
A team is currently being formed in Hocking County, said Interim Hocking County EMA Director Sonja Miller.
McBride said that most teams are still forming, but they are supposed to be in the communication and planning phase.