After the tragedy in Zanesville, Ohio in which many innocent wild animals were killed because their caretaker released them before killing himself, we are all now painfully aware of the immense threats both to animal welfare and to human safety that result from people who lack resources and skills being permitted to keep exotic and dangerous animals. A bill was introduced in the General Assembly last session that would have placed some reasonable limits on people keeping such animals but the matter was tabled and sent to a committee for study.
The Dangerous Animals Initiative Workgroup has now begun its work. The Workgroup is supposed to “develop consensus-based recommendations around public safety and potentially dangerous animals in Virginia over the course of four to five in-person meetings this fall, and a report will be drafted noting the recommendations of the Workgroup, as well as any areas of non-agreement, by the end of 2012.” This Workgroup represents 30 so-called “stakeholders” consisting of pet industry groups, business owners, local government, state government, and federal agency representatives, zoos, animal care and welfare groups, nonprofit organizations, and individuals who have experience regarding potentially dangerous animals. The Workgroup is being facilitated by the UVA Institute for Environmental Negotiation.
There is a large contingent of “pet industry” and agribusiness representatives on the group and so reaching any consensus that will provide meaningful protections for the animals will be challenging. The UVa Institute has an online survey up right now through which they are seeking the perspectives of the public. It is very important that they receive feedback from people who care about the interests of the animals and want to see reasonable constraints placed on people keeping exotic and dangerous animals with inadequate conditions, environment and care. Please take a few minutes and complete the survey at this link: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3M8FWP3
It does not matter if you do not have all of the information requested. What matters is that you make clear that there are many Virginia citizens who prioritize the well being of the animals and understand that they deserve to live in their natural habitats and not to be subjected to inadequate care and conditions in the custody of people who lack the skills and resources to care for them appropriately.
The Richmond SPCA shares the view of The Humane Society of the United states that the primary gaps in animal protection policy are:
- DGIF should enact a prohibition on citizens owning primates and certain venomous and constricting snakes as pets. (Most other dangerous wild animals are already banned as pets by the agency and these two groups of animals need to be added.)
- The current loophole that allows anyone with a USDA license to exhibit to own dangerous wild animals should be closed. Only experienced and qualified individuals should be allowed to own such animals. Maintaining these dangerous animals in our communities backyards for the purpose of exhibiting them or owning them as pets puts the public at risk and also sacrifices the welfare of the animals.
Robin Robertson Starr is the chief executive officer of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires a first and last name to be used as your screen name.