Thursday, August 09, 2007

Attempt to End Private Ownership of Exotic Animals in North Carolina Shot Down

Sad, but predictable.


Exotic animal ban tamed

Ryan Teague Beck with, Staff Writers

In the rush of 11th-hour lawmaking last week, a bill that would have banned private ownership of exotic animals took a quiet second trip to legislative purgatory.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Ed Jones, stuck the measure into an end-of-session study bill after the proposed ban drew intense criticism. State agriculture officials, agribusiness interests and a loose coalition of private zoo and sanctuary owners, reptile keepers and trainers who conduct animal education programs in schools, churches and other venues objected to the ban.

Backed by the Animal Protection Institute, a California-based animal rights group, the bill originally would have slapped a ban on a broad range of exotic animals for public health and safety reasons -- from lions and tigers to bats, pythons, monkeys and apes. Supporters said a ban is needed to protect people from disease and prevent tragedies such as the 2003 death of a Wilkes County fourth-grader who was mauled by a tiger kept in his aunt's backyard.

But critics of the bill said it reached well beyond the laudable goal of banning backyard ownership of tigers and other large carnivores by including restrictions that would have put small zoo owners and animal educators out of business. Opponents also lambasted an earlier study committee chaired by David Jones, head of the N.C. Zoological Park in Asheboro, saying it was stacked with animal rights activists and turned in a final report five months late -- after the Senate exotic animal ban legislation was introduced.

Jones, a Democrat from Halifax County, tucked his bill into a measure that charges the Legislative Research Commission to study the proposed ban after it ran into opposition in a Senate committee and special subcommittee.

At least one member of that subcommittee, Sen. Eddie Goodall, a Republican from suburban Charlotte, questions whether supporters of the ban have proven a broad public health and safety threat from exotic animals.

"There just didn't seem to be a need to do something drastic," Goodall said.

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