Exotic pet owners slow to register animals


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The final stages of a law went into effect this year for restrictions of exotic animals. The state says only about 80 have the proper paperwork, but how many are actually out there?

Mahoning County Assistant Dog Warden Dave Nelson was one of the people on scene in October when over 100 snakes were seized from a home in Struthers. Now, we are learning the issue of exotic animals is more widespread.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture says that only one in three exotic animals throughout the state have the proper paperwork.

“I am really shocked because I thought those numbers would be a lot higher,” said Dave Nelson, Mahoning County Dog Warden.

Ohio Department of Agriculture Spokesperson Erica Hawkins said it is not unusual to have low compliance initially with a new law.

“It takes some time for folks to become aware of it and come in to compliance with it,” said Hawkins. “We never thought we would get a 100 percent capture rate.”

How bad is the exotic animal problem in the Valley? In Mahoning County, only two owners have the proper paperwork, both of which own monkeys, and one owner’s approval is pending. In Columbiana County, one owner is pending approval for a lion, tiger and bear. In Trumbull County, two owners have been approved, both of which own monkeys.

The state is aware there are many more unregistered animals. Nelson said he is aware of at least 12 exotic snake owners and 25 alligator owners, and more keep popping up.

“We went downstairs and found a big gator in the basement. I had to fight with that one and then the next day we had one on the North Side. He was 4.5 to 5 feet long and you talk about tough to handle.”

And it does not end there. Humane Agent Chris Flak said that just in the last month, they have seized several gators, snakes, and lizards from homes in Mahoning County.

Hawkins says the biggest thing is just being aware of the animals and getting them registered so the communities are safe.

“We really, really want them to reach out to us as soon as possible if they really want to keep their animals,” said Hawkins.

For more information on exotic ownership in Ohio and the permitting process, click here.

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