The Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Division of Watercraft are contributing employee time and expertise to assist in manning a toll-free hotline and companion website for Ohioans to report suspected instances of neglect or abuse of dangerous wild animals in Ohio.
However, Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ spokeswoman Laura Jones said the effort by the two divisions will be short term, likely for just this week.
After that other Natural Resources division personnel will take over, Jones said.
Natural Resources Director Scott Zody announced today the new hotline and website as products of Gov. John R. Kasich’s October 21 Executive Order to better use existing laws and resources while specific legal authorities are being developed to protect public health and animal welfare.
ODNR will staff the hotline between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and work with other authorities to take the appropriate follow-up actions when reports are made.
The new toll-free hotline is 855-DWA-OHIO, and the companion website is dangerouswildanimals.ohio.gov. They can be accessed by Ohioans to report suspected instances of neglect or abuse of dangerous wild animals in Ohio.
Long-term, some sportsmen’s groups fear that either an administration or a legislature will tap the hunter/angler/trapper-funded Ohio Wildlife Fund to administer, enforce and maintain an exotic animal licensing and monitoring program.
However, Jones says that for this current administration at least no such raid on the Wildlife Fund is being proposed.
And it will be up to the state legislature to figure out to perform that mission, Jones said also.
Other actions underway that were initiated by the Executive Order include:
• Partnering with Local Law Enforcement: Ohio state agencies are partnering with local health departments, Buckeye State Sheriff’s Association and other law enforcement agencies across the state to identify known locations of captive dangerous wild animals and provide the support they need to enforce existing animal cruelty and public health laws.
• Partnering with Local Humane Societies: To better leverage the powerful authority that existing Ohio laws give humane societies, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) reached out to statewide member organizations of the Ohio Federated Humane Society members and all designated county humane officers to support their efforts to exercise their power to enforce animal cruelty rules and offer training in biosecurity measures and animal health guidelines.
• Identifying Potential Problems: ODNR is developing a database of locations where dangerous wild animals are known to be kept.
• Combatting Auctions: The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) has issued 3,550 letters to licensed auctioneers requesting that they voluntarily suspend sales of dangerous wild animals.
• Quarantine on the Surviving Thompson Animals: ODA issued a quarantine order on Thursday, October 27 to assure that the three leopards, two macaque monkeys, and grizzly bear currently housed at the Columbus Zoo are healthy and free of any disease and parasites before being moved from that facility.
• Site Inspections: Two facilities with dangerous wild animals on the premises have been inspected. One was a joint assessment that included ODA, ODNR, and the US Department of Agriculture and the second was conducted by the ODNR Division of Wildlife. ODNR continues its review of native species permit holders across the state.
Also, the Natural Resources Department is developing a database of locations where dangerous wild animals are known to be kept.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn