COLUMBUS, Ohio, April 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Yesterday Hearing number five on SB310 before the Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources regarding exotic animal legislation went much as the three preceding hearings did. The controversial bill proposal that would ban many exotic animals in Ohio continued with emotionally charged testimony. The Committee hearing was very well attended, but not quite the overflowing, crowded atmosphere of the previous hearings. Again it was clear that the public is not in favor of the bill as evidenced by the witnesses appearing to testify. Well over one hundred opponents overwhelmed the handful of proponents. Some minor amendments were added in a substitute bill offered by bill Sponsor Troy Balderson; most notably removal of permit requirements for constrictor snakes under 12 feet in length.
The Ohio Farm Bureau testified as a proponent but appeared to have little understanding of what the bill entailed. The remainder of the proponent testimony came from professional animal rights activists. The most interesting testimony came from Catherine Cowan. She was adamantly defending the legitimacy of the Global Federation for Animal Shelters (GFAS) from accusations of being a 'front' for the Animal Rights Industry. GFAS is the accrediting body for animal sanctuaries exempted from SB310. "This is simply not the case", noted Ms. Cowan. The GFAS Board is made up of officials from the Humane Society of the United States, BornFree USA and others.
What Ms. Cowan failed to mention was that BornFree USA, formerly the Animal Protection Institute (API), was reportedly involved in a manufactured animal incident in Onslow County, North Carolina in 2007. WITN News, Onslow County, reported that officials investigating the incident believed that members of then API may have been responsible for the hoaxed release of a pair of monocled cobras in an effort to garner support to ban exotic animals in that state.
On the side of opponents, several owners of small primates made impassioned pleas not to take away their ability to keep their harmless and beloved pets. Andrew Wyatt, CEO of the United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK), reiterated that the trade in reptiles accounts accounts for $30 million annually in Ohio. "This is a reptile bill", Wyatt stated. "90% of the impact of SB310 unnecessarily burdens Ohio reptile business owners, and would amount to an unfunded mandate by the state; yet no one has been able to make a compelling case of why any reptiles should be included in SB310".
It is no secret that Ohio faces budget shortfalls in excess of 3 billion dollars. It appears that lawmakers are attempting to offset the enormous cost of implementing SB310 with fees charged to reptile keepers; the largest stakeholder group impacted by SB310. It could well explain why calls by USARK to drop reptiles from the SB310 have not been honored. SB310 will likely be voted on today at another Hearing scheduled for 9:30 AM before it moves on to the House Natural Resources Committee.
SOURCE United States Association of Reptile Keepers (USARK)