It has been almost two months since the extremely rare and highly dangerous events that turned the nation's attention to Zanesville. Throughout our region, discussion and debate continues as to whether or not the incident could have been prevented and what measures are needed in order to prevent a repeated occurrence. Without question, we can all agree that our residents must never again be subjected to an event of that nature. Since October, I have been working alongside a number of legislators, agency officials, animal experts and interested parties to devise new standards and requirements pertaining to the ownership of restricted species in Ohio. After the tragic events in Zanesville, the Governor requested that the Dangerous and Wild Animal Taskforce finalize its recommendations by November 30. Those recommendations have since been finalized and released to the public. I am grateful for the hard work and commitment displayed by task force members throughout this process. The issue of dangerous and wild animal ownership in Ohio has proven to be complicated and sensitive in recent weeks, and they were certainly tasked with a difficult duty. While I agree with the task force's assessment that new standards must be developed and enforced, I respectfully disagree with their recommendation to fully ban exotic animal ownership throughout Ohio. In drafting the new regulations, we have three goals to keep in mind. First and foremost, it is essential that we ensure the public's safety from possible danger. Second, we also need to preserve the ability of small businessmen and women to maintain operation in our state. Finally, we need to ensure that the dangerous and wild animals in Ohio are properly cared for and kept from harm. What happened on October 18 remains devastating and difficult to fathom. However, we have the opportunity to rise from this tragedy to be leaders for the other states and for the world in how these types of animals are regulated. We must remember that this was an isolated and unique incident, but for the sake of protecting ourselves from witnessing a tragedy like this again, this issue deserves more than just a knee-jerk reaction, but our due diligence and careful consideration as we pursue new laws. We cannot lose sight of the fact that the various animal species all present differing levels of danger and should be regulated accordingly. Through collaboration and careful consideration, I am confident that we can develop new standards for this type of animal ownership in Ohio. From animal owners and law enforcement agents to zoo keepers and local officials, all forms of insight and opinion are needed in developing an effective and fair plan. I look forward to working with fellow legislators and stakeholders in determining the most logical and responsible next step concerning this issue in Ohio.
Senator Balderson represents the 20th Senate District of Ohio, which is made up of Athens, Coshocton, Guernsey, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, and Washington Counties
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