Stony Ridge exotic animal owner responds to court decision - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Stony Ridge exotic animal owner responds to court decision

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A federal appeals court has upheld Ohio's new exotic animal law.

This comes after several owners sued the state over the regulations restricting who can own lions, tigers, bears, and other wild beasts.  

13abc's Christine Long has reaction from one exotic animal owner in Wood County.

Kenny Hetrick, the owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics in Stony Ridge along the Fremont Pike, says the law will be challenged again.  The court's decision will be appealed.  However, he's worried.  Hetrick says he has nightmares the state will suddenly show up and seize his animals.

14 exotic animals are behind the cages at Tiger Ridge, including bobcats, tigers, a wolf, and a bear that wouldn't come out in the cold.

"Kids all come here, elderly people from nursing homes come here," says Hetrick.

Hetrick is defying the law.

Since January 1st, Hetrick has not registered for a state permit saying he cannot financially comply.

"The insurance alone would be 15-hundred dollars a month for a million dollars of insurance," says Hetrick. "And they want different type of fencing and dig barriers and micro chipping, neutering."

Hetrick believes his private operation should be exempt from the new state regulations because he has been compliant with federal regulations.  He has had a USDA permit for almost three decades.

The state imposed restrictions after a suicidal owner in Zanesville released dozens of animals from his farm in 2011. Authorities killed most of the animals, which included black bears, Bengal tigers and African lions, fearing for the public's safety.

"I don't think you should throw a blanket over everybody for what one guy did," says Hetrick.

Hetrick is one of the exotic animal owners challenging the new state law saying it's too stringent and forces them to join associations in which they disagree.

The law exempts sanctuaries, research institutions and facilities accredited by some national zoo groups, such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Zoological Association of America.

However, the legal challenge was rejected on Tuesday by a federal appeals court.

The Humane Society released a statement saying, "We applaud the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals for upholding this commonsense statute. Private possession of exotic animals like big cats, bears, nonhuman primates, crocodiles and large constrictor snakes poses an unacceptable risk to public safety and animal welfare, and regulations restricting possession of these animals to qualified facilities is both necessary and constitutional."

Hetrick says, "I don't know what is going to happen now. I just hate the thought that somebody could come in here and take my animals off of me."

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