Updated Thu, Feb 13, 2014 3:56 pm
A plan on how to respond to an emergency involving release of a dangerous animal or snake was adopted Tuesday by the Athens County Commissioners.
The plan was presented by Fred Davis, director of the Athens County Emergency Management Agency.
In response to a 2011 incident in Muskingum County in which several lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals were released, the state passed legislation requiring each county in Ohio to have a Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team and a dangerous wild animal plan.
As The Messenger previously reported, the response team — essentially a planning group — was put together last year.
Davis said the plan adopted Tuesday must be submitted by the end of the month to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which can approve it or suggest changes.
Davis said the response to a released wild animal would, in most respects, be the same as the response to other emergencies.
“It’s basically already covered by our normal county plan,” Davis said. “We support first responders. Our (existing) county plan is what we call an all-hazards plan.”
Davis said law enforcement would take the lead in an animal emergency, and ultimately decide how the situation is handled.
The plan adopted Tuesday describes the roles of law enforcement, fire departments, emergency medical services and the local health department. If requested by law enforcement, the county’s Emergency Operations Center would be activated.
The plan is to be reviewed annually by the county’s Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team, and any time the plan is put into operation there is to be a review and update afterward.
One requirement of the state legislation is that there be a wild animal owner on the team, but Davis said none has volunteered to participate. He said if needed in an emergency, an owner from another county’s team would be consulted.
According to the plan the commissioners adopted Tuesday, there are four tigers registered in Athens County (although it is believed the animals have since moved to South Dakota), as well as a bear at at Mill School Road site near Guysville and two bears at a Bowman Road location near Coolville.