W.Va. Looks to Regulate or Ban Ownership of Some Exotic Animals

NITRO, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- When it comes to exotic animals, you could say Joseph Perdue is a bit of a fanatic. Perdue, who works as a consultant at Specialty Pets, LLC, is part of a growing number of pet shop workers who are worried about a new bill introduced this week in the West Virginia Senate.

"It scared me initially," Perdue said. "There would be countless pet stores that live off this. Small pet stores, mom-and-pop stores that will be run out of business because they can't sell an animal that someone wants."

West Virginia Senate President Jeff Kessler sponsored the legislation, known as SB 477, following the release of dozens of exotic animals in Ohio last year. More than 50 of those animals had to be shot and killed after they escaped from a farm.

"These were not household pets," Sen. Kessler said. "These were lions, tigers, bears, things of that nature that not only pose a danger to public safety but also to the animals themselves if they aren't cared for. What this bill would attempt to do is, for those areas that are zoos and whatever. They can certainly keep them, but they have to be registered. They have to be insured and things of that nature."

Perdue agrees that some wild animals just are not meant to be a pet, but he hopes lawmakers don't infringe on pet owner's rights.

"We understand, and we think it's important to have any kind of regulation we can," Perdue said. "But keep it reasonable. There are animals that are of no danger to people."

As of now, West Virginia is one of the most lenient states when it comes to exotic pet ownership. Current laws only require owners to have permits for certain wild animals, but there is no law on the books requiring those owners to report the animals.

The Senate's version of the bill has yet to list any specific animals. Senator Kessler says he doesn't think pet owners and pet shops have "a thing in the world to worry about."

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