Animal advocates: Ohio gov's shooting response 'toothless'

Animal welfare advocates decried as "toothless" Ohio Gov. John Kasich's response to the shooting deaths of 50 wild animals - including rare Bengal tigers - who were freed from their cages by their owner who then committed suicide.

In an emergency order Friday Kasich said state agencies would exert "existing but underutilized powers" to address wildlife abuse issues in a state with a bustling exotic trade and a high number of sometimes fatal attacks on humans by "pet" wild animals - and work more closely with local humane societies which enforce cruelty laws.

He also said the state would review existing wildlife ownership permits - which apply to native species such as black bears, but not lions and tigers or other non-native species and set up a hotline for tips about wildlife abuse. [This means that lions, tigers, giraffes, elephants and scores of other non-native species go completely unregulated in Ohio. The U.S. Department of Agriculture which licenses and inspects zoos and other places where animals are on exhiibit, does not license "private zoos."]

Too litte too late, said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

In a conference call with reporters Friday Pacelle called Kasich's order "inadequate and fare too conservative given the severity of the crisis."

"We need an executive order that bans the sale and acquisition of dangerous wild animals as pets or roadside attractions," said Pacelle.

Kasich maintained that he did not have the power to issue an outright ban, something his predecessor Todd Strickland did before leaving office last year. Kasich allowed that order to expire, when he could have used his authority to shut down Terry Thompson's Muskingum County Animal Park (shown above) since Thompson had been convicted of animal cruelty. [See the New York Times report on Thompson's appalling record of animal treatment here.]

Tim Harrison, a former Ohio police officer whose work expose the exotic animal trade is featured in the documentary "The Elephant in the Living Room," said it was like "putting a band air on a bleeding artery."

Born Free USA echoed Pacelle's response.

"There is no excuse for wild, potentially dangerous, exotic animals to be kept in private hands," said Will Travers, chief executive of the national wildlife advocacy group which tracks state-by-state attacks by exotics in a volumnious database on its website and has advocated for stronger state laws governing exotics. [See Born Free executive vice president Adam Roberts debate the issue with tiger owner on CNN here.]

(Photo/Associated Press)