Ohio Department of Agriculture site
State promises secure facility for wild animals
Reynoldsburg Mayor Brad McCloud said when he first heard about the state's plan to house lions, tigers, snakes or other exotic animals on the outskirts of the city, he was "hit cold" by the news.
He's among area residents who say they're concerned about the facility which will be built behind the Ohio Department of Agriculture headquarters at 8995 E. Main St. It will temporarily hold animals which have been seized under the state's new exotic-animals law.
The facility, which could have room for as many as 60 animals and snakes, could cost $2 million to $4 million, according to Daniels. Funding must be approved by the State Controlling Board, which next meets on Sept. 10.
McCloud, who said he's received a handful of calls from residents, learned about the plan Aug. 22 in a call from a state agriculture official.
"This isn't something to take lightly," he said. "But I'm comfortable they will take the necessary safety precautions. The nearest homes would be across the road. I think it's an enormous obligation and (the state) realizes this."
While Gov. John Kasich's political opponents are calling it the state zoo, Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David T. Daniels referred to the facility as a maximum-security prison for animals that won't be open to the public.
"They will be in secure cages which meet USDA and zoological standards," said Erica Pitchford, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Agriculture Department. "This is the best option for making sure that these animals are being kept securely and that they're being care for properly."
The Reynoldsburg site was selected over other options, which included zoos, state parkland and The Wilds animal preserve in eastern Ohio.
Kasich, who supports the plan, noted that the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is located near residential areas.
Acting Reynoldsburg Police Chief Lt. Jim O'Neill said he would be more concerned if a "private entity" were housing the animals.
"I don't think it's a major concern on our end about animals getting out," he said. "My biggest concern is that it could bring protestors and other outside influences that we might have to deal with. People can get very emotional on both sides of the issue."
Beginning on Monday, Sept. 3, the sale or trade of exotic animals is banned in Ohio under Senate Bill 310. Those who currently own restricted animals can keep them, but the animals must be registered with the state and tagged with a microchip by Nov. 2.
It will be a felony offense to release an exotic animal into the wild.
By Jan. 1, 2014, owners of exotic animals must obtain permits and meet caging, signage, insurance and other security requirements or expect to have their animals seized by the state.
The law resulted from the release of dozens of lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other creatures by a suicidal owner near Zanesville in October last year.