Athens County Exotic Animal Owner Concerned About Proposed Bill

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An Athens County exotic animal owner is concerned about the impact of a proposed bill to ban exotic animal ownership in the state.

For the past eight months, Ohio legislators have been drafting the bill. The bill passed the Ohio Senate in April and is expected to be voted on in the full House next week.

James Galvin, a New Marshfield man who owns four Bengal tigers, spoke to the Ohio legislature in testimony to defend responsible animals owners across the state.

Galvin says he had always dreamed of retiring from his veterinarian practice to own and care for tigers at his home. He's finally living that dream, but fears the new ban on big cats will create problems this lifestyle.

"Even though their intentions are good, I think they are going to find a lot of cats needing homes," he said. "Most of these sanctuaries are just booked solid and the zoos don't want them, so where are these cats going to go?"

The proposal bans the sale, new ownership and breeding of restricted exotic animals.

State Representative Debbie Phillips (D-Athens), who voted in committee to approve the bill, says exotic animal ownership should not be a casual situation.

"These animals are not pets, that there shouldn't be private individual ownership of lions and tigers, just large dangerous, exotic animals. The people who have the training, zooss, people who have the training, bona-fied species preservation are the ones that can appropriately care for these animals," said Phillips.

Galvin says he doesn't think he'll be affected by the new ban, as his pens have roofs and locks on every entrance.  

Galvin traveled to Columbus earlier this month to complain about the proposed state fee structure and other aspects of the bill.

"You're going to require a $1,000 or whatever amount every year, you're going to require whatever amount in insurance, which I can see are two legitimate concerns but wouldn't it make more sense to have them spend that money buying more fencing or putting in more security like surveillance cameras and things like that?" he asked. 

If the bill becomes law, a full ban on new ownerhip would take effect 90 days after it's signed.

Mandatory registration of exotic wild animals would kick in by the end of this year.