Is school's live tiger mascot violating Ohio law? - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Is school's live tiger mascot violating Ohio law?

A tiger cub reportedly kept by the school in 2005. (Source: YouTube/oneworldconservation) A tiger cub reportedly kept by the school in 2005. (Source: YouTube/oneworldconservation)

A school that uses a live tiger cub as a mascot has been warned it must submit more documentation to continue that tradition without violating Ohio's law on dangerous animals.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show the Massillon Washington High School booster club that provides the tigers is among over a dozen animal owners contacted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture in recent months over compliance concerns.

A recent ODA letter says the boosters claimed an exemption but must provide more proof. It requests affidavits indicating the school's tiger would live at an accredited facility and be cared for by the school throughout its life.

It's not clear how that request might affect the live-mascot tradition this year. School and booster club officials didn't respond to messages seeking comment.

According to the online petition site, each football season school boosters lease a new tiger cub, always called Obie, from a private breeder.

The petition, which calls on school officials to stop the practice, has garnered nearly 8,000 signatures since it began late last year. Another online petition to end the school tiger tradition has posted nearly 97,000 supporters.

After an incident in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011, when a man released 50 of his exotic pets, including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers, then killed himself, the state of Ohio cracked down on exotic pet owners.

Since 2014, Ohioans who own exotic animals must obtain a new state-issued wildlife shelter permit. And in late 2012, the stare required all exotic pets to be registered.

Shortly before the law took effect, FOX19 NOW Investigates looked into records of exotic animals living in Ohio homes. For the first time, we saw exactly where these exotic, sometimes dangerous animals, were living in Hamilton, Butler and Clermont counties.

We found dozens of exotic animals that called the Tri-State home. Among them, a black bear was registered at a home on a property in Middletown. An African serval cat was registered to a home in Bethel. The species is illegal to own in a number of states and not recommended in homes with small children.

There were also about 25 alligators living in Tri-State homes.

There are currently six residents of Hamilton, Clermont or Butler counties that have active permits or are in the process of renewing their permits with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to own dangerous wild animals or restricted snakes. Those animals include a bobcat, alligators and six Burmese python, according to data provided by ODA.

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