Hundreds of owners of dangerous, wild animals have yet to register with the state as required under a new state law, with only a few days left to make their submissions.
A failure to do so by Monday will mean private owners of bears, lions, hippos, tigers and apes will not be eligible to hold them as of January 2014, state agriculture Director Dave Daniels said Wednesday.
"We have done everything we can to reach out to those owners and encourage them to register," he said.
He continued, "The law is very clear. If you do not register by Nov. 5, you will no longer be able to keep your animal after Jan. 1, 2014. It is in every owner's interest to see to it that they've got a completed registration form here on time. The bill allows no exemption for me to permit... any animal that is not registered by (Nov. 5) of this year."
Daniels made the comments Wednesday during the inaugural meeting of the state's new Dangerous and Restricted Animals Advisory Board, formed by lawmakers as part of legislation limiting the private ownership of certain species.
The new law categorized bears, tigers, lions, elephants, Komodo dragons, crocodiles and other species as "dangerous wild animals."
Existing owners in both categories are banned from acquiring new animals, though they can keep existing ones as long as they register with the state, implant microchips, meet care standards and obtain proper permits.
The new law also categorizes a variety of anacondas, pythons and other restricted snakes, with owners required to obtain possession and propagation permits.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is overseeing the permitting and will be charged with confiscating animals held illegally. Registration forms are available online at www.agri.ohio.gov.
In coming months, members of the new state board, most of whom were appointed by Gov. John Kasich, will work to develop permanent standards for the care and caging of different animals.
One of their first orders of business was signing off on temporary standards, which should be in place by early December.
Proposed rules include specific types of enclosures for specific types of animals, with requirements for cage materials, height and added features.
Bears, for example, must have "at least one elevated platform or betting material for resting." Lions, leopards and other big cats will require a "claw log." And Cape buffaloes will need access to water "for swimming and/or mud wallowing."
Board members expect to meet ever couple of weeks through early next year, with a goal of having final standards in place by March. The board also will work on record and signage requirements and civil penalties for those who break the law.
Private owners of restricted species will be required to meet the standards in order to keep their animals, with state permits issued to those in compliance; applications for the latter will be available sometime next year. In the meantime, those owners are required to register with the state by Monday.
Failing to do so will mean they will have to get rid of their animals or face possible confiscation.
"They need to register, and they need to do so by Nov. 5," Daniels said.
About 40 owners have registered hundreds of animals to date, many of which are housed in zoos in Columbus, Cincinnati and elsewhere.
But Daniels said officials have estimated that private owners have 500-600 animals, not including those housed at zoos.
"The folks that haven't registered their dangerous wild animals after the deadline will have broken the law," said Michael Rodgers, legal counsel for the state board.
He added, "There's a legal duty and requirement to register... The real danger for those folks is, if they do intend to keep the animals after the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline, as the director correctly pointed out, we have no discretion to issue a permit to them because one of the requirements of the permit is they have to register."