CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It didn’t pass with a roar but it had enough votes to get Senate and House approval during the regular Legislative session, House Bill 4393 that would regulate the private ownership of dangerous wild animals. We’re talking lions and tigers and bears among others.
The bill is waiting to be signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The Humane Society of the United States is urging him to put pen to paper.
“With us being one of only six states with zero regulations that means zero caging regulations, zero insurance for these animals, zero veterinary regulations,” said Summer Wyatt the West Virginia Director of the Humane Society of the United States. “That can get really scary for human and animal health.”
She said there are numerous cases of wild animals roaming loose in the community. A pet chimpanzee escaped in Sprague and bit two people; a rhesus macaque escaped in Martinsburg and bit two children and a teenager, Ravenswood police issued a community alert after a resident’s 9-foot reticulated python escaped near a daycare center and elementary school.
Wyatt said West Virginia is currently a mecca for wild animals because of the state’s no regulation status. And she’s seen all too often what that can lead to.
“I, myself, have seen tigers in dog kennels and alligators that have been let loose in public streams and parks that have had to be euthanized because we have nowhere to take them and no way to capture them in West Virginia,” according to Wyatt.
She stressed by having the governor sign the bill into law, it will protect wild animals, from primates to big cats to constrictor snakes, from exploitation.
“[This requires] having records of where these animals are located, what their caging standards are like, when their last veterinarian visit was.”
Wyatt said the bill protects everyone involved and makes West Virginia a safer place to live.