Virginia urged to strengthen exotic pet laws


Following the release of dangerous animals from a private collection in Ohio, an animal-rights group is asking Virginia to strengthen its laws on exotic pets. (AP) | MORE PHOTOS FROM OHIO

Humane Society of the United States has asked Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to direct the Virginia Department of Natural Resources to tighten regulations on the sale and possession of dangerous wild animals.

“Virginia has little oversight of exotic animal ownership; the law requires a permit for big cats, bears and wolves with no regulation at all for primates,” the Humane Society said in a news release.

“How many incidents must we catalogue before states like Virginia take action to crack down on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals?” Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle said in a prepared statement. “In recent years, people have died and suffered injuries because states haven’t exhibited the foresight to stop private citizens from keeping dangerous wild animals as pets or as roadside attractions, and the situation gets more surreal with every new incident, including this mass escape or release of large animals in Muskingum County, Ohio.”

McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said the governor would look into the matter.

“The Governor is concerned about any threats to public safety that could be presented by personal ownership of such animals,” Martin said via e-mail. “In the wake of yesterday’s tragic situation in Ohio, the Administration will look further into the laws in the Commonwealth regarding this issue.”

More coverage:

Dangerous exotic animals turned loose, hunted down in Ohio

Photos: Exotic animals escape Ohio preserve

Video: Jack Hanna on the Ohio animal tragedy

Animal lovers upset by killings in Ohio

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.

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