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Archive for Saturday, August 27, 2005

Board may require permits for exotic animals

August 27, 2005

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— One week after a girl was mauled to death by a captive Siberian tiger, the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission considered requiring anyone owning an exotic animal to have a federal permit.

The commission did not vote on the issue during its Thursday meeting.

Members said they would continue the discussion at an October meeting but would not vote on the issue until January at the earliest.

The commission has been debating stricter regulation of exotic animals in Kansas since 2004, but the issue has received more attention since 17-year-old Haley Hilderbrand was killed Aug. 18 by a tiger at a wildlife park in Mound Valley while she was having her senior class photos taken.

Kansas does not prohibit ownership of most exotic cats, but it requires a permit to own bears, wolves or mountain lions. Several counties do restrict exotic animal ownership.

If the commission decides to require the federal permits, owners of exotic cats, bears or wolves would be under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

One of that agency's rules prohibits public contact with animals that weigh more than 75 pounds.

The wildlife commission has considered several options, from banning private ownership of exotic animals to requiring state residents to follow federal regulations.

"Anybody who has these large cats should be regulated," said Vicki Harvey, an advocate for the rights of animal owners.

Having animal owners under federal control could save the state the expense of inspecting and regulating the animals, said Kevin Jones, director of law enforcement division for the Wildlife and Parks department.

Jones said he didn't know how many people in Kansas have exotic animals and would apply for federal permits. He also said federal inspectors already are overbooked.

"I think if we require some of these people to (follow federal regulations), some will choose not to," commission Chairman John Dykes said.

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