CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An advisory committee from several state agencies continues to collaborate on what will be included in an exotic animal ordinance approved by the legislature during the 2014 regular session.
Lawmakers were concerned about a lack of any laws regarding dangerous animals in the wake of an incident in Zanesville, Ohio. There a number of penned animals including lions, tigers, bears and other large cats escaped and roamed free throughout the countryside. Law enforcement was forced to shoot all of the animals in a high profile and dangerous hunting spree.
“The state of Ohio at the time also lacked any kind of effective program to cover exotics,” said Paul Johansen, Assistant Chief of Game Management for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “They have since put rules in place and we’re doing the same thing here in West Virginia.”
The advisory committee is considering what animals will be on the list. Johansen said the legislature was fairly clear in the wording of the law that any exotic animal considered a threat will be banned.
“The rule is specific to dangerous animals,” he said. “Not every species which would be on the list for ‘exotic’ would necessarily be on the list of prohibited species here in West Virginia.”
Some obvious entries will be the African cats along with some venomous snakes or constrictors.
“Those that would be considered dangerous to humans, injurious to the environment, or if the posed a threat to livestock in West Virginia they would be included on that list,” Johansen said. “An animal may fall on the list because of disease concerns.”
Johansen said the list should be finalized by next month and ready for public comment. Johansen expected a lot of feedback on the list once it’s submitted to the legislature. Lawmakers will work off the list to approve the rules.
Johansen added any of the prohibited exotic species already in existence in West Virginia would be grandfathered into the legislation, but as they die off they cannot be replaced.