Hetrick: Exotic animal new law unbearable PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK Sentinel Staff Writer   
Friday, 03 January 2014 10:20
File photo. Kenny Hetrick feeds his kodiak bear. (Photo: Andrew Weber/Sentinel-Tribune)
STONY RIDGE - Tiger Ridge Exotics is one of a number of exotic animal facilities being affected by an Ohio law requiring permits to keep the animals.
The portion of the law governing permits went into effect Wednesday.
"I'm determined," said Kenny Hetrick, Stony Ridge, owner and operator of Tiger Ridge, in an interview Thursday. "I don't want them to come and take my animals. They surely can't go to a better place than what I have for them."
The measure, Senate Bill 310, was signed into law in June of 2012, and its contents have been gradually rolled out since then. Among other provisions, it requires that each such animal be microchipped, and a copy of a "plan of action" be submitted to the county sheriff, as well as the local police and fire departments. Further, depending on the number of animals held, a fee must be submitted with the permit application amounting to between $250 and $1,000. Insurance between $250,000 and $1 million must also be carried.
Zoos, circuses and some other facilities, as well as schools' sports mascots, are exempt from the law.
The bill came about after the 2011 release of a number of exotic animals from a facility in eastern Ohio. The owner took his own life prior to letting the animals out. Many of the animals were killed out of concern for public safety.
Erica Hawkins, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said that they received 56 applications as of Thursday morning, and more were expected over the next few days. The applications were to have been postmarked by New Year's Eve.
The Tiger Ridge facility, located on Fremont Pike in Stony Ridge, has a variety of animals including six tigers, three lions and other big cats, as well as bears, wolves, and a liger - produced through the mating of a lion and tiger.
Hetrick is a member of the Ohio Association of Animal Owners, which is fighting provisions of the bill in court. According to the OAAO's website, a federal judge ruled in favor of the ODA, but the case was appealed to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. A Nov. 22 hearing in the case was held before a three-judge panel. A decision is pending.
Hetrick noted that the microchipping, application fee, insurance requirement and other provisions in the bill are cost-prohibitive - the insurance alone, he said, would cost him $500 per month.
While Hetrick said he has submitted the permit application, "I can't comply with what they want on this permit. I'm just like everybody else. Very few people sent their permit money in because they can't comply with the regulations that the government wants."
He stated that he has renewed his license with the federal government for 2014.
Hetrick expressed concern about a provision in the bill allowing for animals to be taken from their owners if they do not have a permit.
A due process must be followed in order to take the animals, according to the AP.
Hawkins noted that without the permit, "there are a number of mechanisms in the law, that include civil fines, criminal prosecution. They also are at risk of having those animals seized by the state."
A nearly $3 million facility to temporarily hold such animals was built in Reynoldsburg, according the AP, and it has held approximately 24 animals since opening in March. None had been euthanized.
Hetrick, however, stated his worry that confiscated animals could be euthanized at Reynoldsburg. He said that there are more than 800 exotic animals in the state of Ohio, and contended that the Reynoldsburg facility can only hold 30. He further expressed concern that, should authorities at some point come for the animals at Tiger Ridge and tranquilize them in the cold weather, they could be at risk for life-threatening illness, like pneumonia.
"I know what to do, and they don't" in that situation, he said.

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