Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Fears Are That Ohio's Sportsmen Will Pay For Regulating Exotic Animals

With Ohio moving to regulate the ownership and sale of exotic wild animals a leading pro-sportsmen’s group worries that the state’s hunters, anglers and trappers will be left paying the bill.

The Columbus-based U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance says it’s not responsible for draft enabling legislation that would establishing a permitting program. That effort is being undertaken by a small cadre of officials.

Under this still largely hush-hush proposal the state would empower and command the Ohio Division of Wildlife to enforce new rules regarding the ownership and sale of such exotic, non-indigenous, dangerous animals as African lions, great apes, tigers and even chimpanzees.

Published reports by the Columbus Dispatch say that material is now being worked on by a group of stake holders that would mandate that the Wildlife Division’s chief “...shall do all things necessary...” to regulate the ownership, sale, bartering and such like of exotic wild animals.

While the USSA has been a participant in the discussions regarding the status of the exotic animal trade and ownership issue in Ohio, it has not been part of the drafting of legislation that would establishes an exotic animal ownership permitting program, says Rob Sexton, the Alliance’s vice president of government affairs.

A bundle of significant problems exists, Sexton says.

Among them are no one knows how many exotic wild animals are out there, how many people own them nor what any administrative fee might be.

And that last thorn could prick sportsmen’s dollars. The reason being is that the Wildlife Division is funded solely by the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and permits along with a portion of a federal tax on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment and fishing tackle.

“What we’re worried about is that all of this will be tossed into the laps of sportsmen,” Sexton says. “It does appear that Ohio’s hunters, anglers and trappers could be stuck paying for the permits for people who own tigers, lions and grizzly bears - this is a major, major concern.”

That is because such a permitting process may not be affordable for individual exotic animal owners and sellers. Consequently, such a potential fee could so steep that no one could afford it and, thus, not be adopted, Sexton said.

Such a scenario could see an administration or a state legislature eying the Wildlife Division’s budget and funding sources as a means to compensate for the difference, Sexton says.

Since this is a state safety issue and not one of actual management of non-captive wild animals, any additional costs beyond a permit fee must come from the state’s General Revenue funding stream and not from sportsmen’s dollars, Sexton says.

“Given the track record of the legislature and the current situation with the state budget and the economy, nothing can be taken for granted,” said a very concerned Sexton

“But what we don’t want is for the sportsmen and sportswomen of Ohio to think for one minute that the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is involved with a (deleted) plan that would tap sportsmen’s dollars.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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