New rules for exotic animal owners in Ohio

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - New rules for exotic animal owners in Ohio were signed into law Tuesday by Governor John Kasich.

The new rules follow an incident last October where 56 exotic animals were set loose by their suicidal owner near Zanesville. Most of those animals had to be destroyed.

The new regulations will prohibit people from buying new dangerous exotic animals. People who already own animals will have 60 days to register them with the state Owners would have to get a new state issued permit by 2014 and follow strict care taking guidelines.

Paul Strasser who owns the Red Wolf  sanctuary in Rising Sun, Indiana says owning an exotic animal can take years of commitment and shouldn't be done on a whim. "Realistically for someone to go out and buy an exotic animal at this stage of the game, would be absolutely foolish," he said.

Strasser says while he applauds tougher rules for exotic animals he worries that some owners may not be able to meet the new guidelines and the animals will pay the price. "You're going to have thousands of animals in Ohio that are going to get dumped, now who is going to take those. Most of those are going to end up at a game farm where somebody pays dollars to shoot them," he said.

Strasser keeps more than two dozen exotic animals including bears, wolves and a bobcat. He says its a labor of love, but he's spent more than a half million dollars just on the bear enclosure.  Strasser says its a serious commitment. "You're looking at an animal that can live 30 years, eat 30 pounds of food a day and requires a fairly substantial housing so that people are not put in danger of handling it," said Strasser.

Strasser says exotic animals may be cuddly when they're young, but they grow up. "I want people to think what they're getting. Just because its incredibly cute when its two pounds, you're looking at an animal now behind us that can get up to 750 pounds, and that's a big, big responsibility. You're not going on vacation. You're not going to have your buddies come over and baby sit your bear," he said.

Strasser says his best advice to exotic animal lovers is to visit the animals where they live and don't try to make them a pet.

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