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Pa.'s exotic animal laws tougher than Ohio's - abc27 WHTM

Pa.'s exotic animal laws tougher than Ohio's

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Pennsylvania's wildlife game laws are much stricter than those in Ohio, where officials have said weak laws lead to the tragic killing of dozens of animals.

Nearly 60 animals from the Wild Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio were released by owner Terry Thompson took his own life Tuesday night, according to investigating authorities.

"His wound was self-inflicted and then he let the animals out at some point," Muskingun County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.

911 calls poured in from around the area.

"It looks like a jaguar or wolf or something," one caller reported. "I opened the door and it took off."

"I'm at the high school and I'm pretty sure I just saw a wolf in our parking lot," another caller said.

Deputies worked through the night to hunt down the freed animals. All of them were either captured or killed.

"My heart aches for these animals, but also our hearts could be aching today for a lot of people that could have lost their lives," said Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo.

Officials at the Pennsylvania Game Commission said the gaming laws in this state are much more restrictive.

"We are polar opposites of Ohio when you look at it in terms of regulations governing exotic wildlife possession and sale and menagerie type activities," Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said.

To own an exotic animal in Pennsylvania, a person must have at least two years of hands-on experience with a species, a letter from their municipality allowing the animal, and proper animal housing that is checked by a game inspector before a permit is granted.

"If anything happens to this animal, we want to know what happened, when, where it was disposed of, or anything like that," Feaser said.

The laws may get tougher. House Bill 1398, currently before the Game and Fisheries Committee, would prohibit new permits for the private ownership of exotic animals such as bears, tigers, coyotes and lions. The current permits would be allowed until the animal dies.

Game Commission officials hope Pennsylvania's laws will keep people here safe.

"We're glad it's not happened in Pennsylvania and we're going to try and make sure, working with those individuals who are permitted, that it doesn't happen here," Feaser said.

According to Feaser, there are currently 36 people in the state who have permits for the private possession of exotic animals.

He said 12 other people have dealer permits to buy, sell and raise wild animals, and 126 others have permits to display animals in wildlife parks and other attractions.

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