Dangerous Animal Response Team Members Appointed By Athens County Commission

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Members of Athens County's Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team were appointed Wednesday by the Athens County Commissioners.

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.

The purpose of the teams is to help emergency responders prepare for any dangerous animal incident that might occur.

"This will be more of a planning-type committee," said Fred Davis, director the Athens County Emergency Management Agency.

Although the team will help plan for a potential dangerous animal situation, Davis said ultimate authority at the scene — including whether an animal must be destroyed — will rest with the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction.

The law requires appointment of members from certain segments of the community. Those segments and the people appointed Wednesday are:

Law enforcement: Sheriff's Capt. Bryan Cooper

Fire service: Bill Butterworth of the Richland Area Fire Department

First aid: Dan Pfeiffer, former Athens County Emergency Medical Service assistant chief and current 911 interim director

Emergency management: Davis

Public health: Mike Cooper of the Athens City-County Health Department

Media: Amanda Green of The Athens Messenger

Elected official: Clerk of Courts Ann Trout.

One of the required appointments — a dangerous wild animal owner — was not done Wednesday. Davis said he would like James Galvin to fill that slot, but his willingness to do so has not been confirmed.  Galvin is the proprietor of Midwest Big Cat Care, a tiger preserve near New Marshfield.

Ohio's Dangerous Wild Animal Emergency Response Commission has recommended that county teams also include a veterinarian. Carol Osborne, of Briarwood Clinic in Albany, was appointed Wednesday to the Athens County team.

Optional members are also allowed, and the county commissioners approved Kim Barron, an Athens County Common Pleas Court bailiff, as a member.

Besides each county having a team, the state legislation also includes stricter regulations for owning dangerous or exotic animals, according to Tamara McBride, spokeswoman for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency.

The bill was in direct response to Muskingum County resident Terry Thompson releasing 49 wild animals from his preserve before taking his own life in October 2011. Muskingum County sheriff's 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.