So as Ohio tightens its noose on exotic animal owners rights…Michigan is doing just the opposite…go figure…[Shame on you Ohio!!!]




State Sen. Joe Hune shows off his dual-humped Bactrian camels on his farm in Livingston County.

Hune and fellow Republicans just pushed through legislation to ease ownership restrictions on large carnivores.

Feathers flew during the Legislature’s recently concluded lame-duck session on a wide range of issues, obscuring from public view a glimpse of fur, too – a two-bill package that eases restrictions on ownership of large carnivores in the state.

Senate Bill 1236 and SB 703 are not yet law, as they await Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature. Should he sign them, Michigan will relax the existing Large Carnivore Act to allow importation of lions, tigers, cheetahs and the like by certain accredited facilities. Another provision would allow visitors to come into direct contact with bears up to nine months old, a move designed to bring an Upper Peninsula bear farm into compliance with state law.

It may seem strange waters to enter, only a year after the disastrous escapes of exotic animals from a private collection in Ohio. But one of the bills’ sponsors, Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, says Michiganians don’t have to fear a lion farm opening down the road.

“That dirtbag in Ohio would never, ever have been allowed to operate in Michigan under existing laws,” he said.

The existing law, passed in 2000, grandfathered in owners at the time, but prohibited most private ownership of large cats or bears. Under the new bill, any facility accredited by the Zoological Association of America could be eligible to import and exhibit bears, lions, tigers or other large carnivores. And it’s the ZAA – not the animals – that…

variety of reasons that came to a head in October 2011, when Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio, opened the cages of his personal zoo, then took his own life, leaving lions, tigers, bears, wolves and monkeys free to roam the rural countryside.

By the time the roving menagerie was discovered, night was falling and police and Columbus Zoo officials made the call to shoot most of them.

After the incident, Ohio tightened its restrictions on private ownership of exotics, instituting a tough new law that bans the import, sale or breeding of big cats, bears and other species, and requiring current owners to register their animals. But it also included ZAA accreditation, along with the that of the AZA, among exempted facilities. Aspects of the law are being challenged in court.

“The Zanesville tragedy is a chilling example of what’s possible when dangerous animals are kept by private individuals,” reads a statement on the Detroit Zoo website.

Despite such opposition, the bills cleared the Legislature with comfortable margins.

Injuries caused by animals in public and private zoos are uncommon, but not unheard-of. An Iowa man was mauled by a tiger at the Cricket Hollow Zoo in 2011, an unaccredited facility. And a boy was attacked by a leopard at the AZA-accredited Sedgwick County Zoo.

Advocate’s own father injured

To Hune, who raises Bactrian camels on his parents’ farm outside Fowlerville in Livingston County, the Zanesville incident was an outlier, a rare and random act by a mentally unstable individual. Not that he would deny animals can be dangerous – in 2004 his father, David, suffered a skull fracture when one of his son’s camels picked him up by the head as he worked nearby.

“It wasn’t an attack,” said the younger Hune. “He just wanted attention.” The incident left the elder Hune with a plate in his head, but that didn’t dampen the family’s enthusiasm for exotic livestock; four camels still live on the farm, along with ponies, donkeys and a few head of cattle David Hune raises for freezer beef.

Majority of states have animal bans

Laws covering exotics vary around the country. Born Free USA, which generally opposes private ownership of exotic animals, maintains a website covering the state of current laws. Twenty-nine states have complete or partial bans, with others requiring permits, veterinary certificates or other regulatory measures.

Besides the AZA and ZAA accreditations, warm-blooded animals that are not farm livestock or pets may be regulated under the federal Animal Welfare Act, enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA spokesman Dave Sacks said the act only covers those that are exhibited to the public for compensation, which covers zoos, circuses, petting farms and even stadium mascots. In Michigan, 104 entities and individuals have USDA licenses, which require regular unannounced inspections.

Bear photos influence policy

One of the Michigan bills would allow Oswald’s Bear Ranch, in Newberry, to reinstate a longstanding practice there – allowing visitors to have their photos taken with cubs, which the facility suspended last summer after managers were told it was illegal under state law. The ranch, licensed by the USDA, takes in orphaned black bear cubs. The new law would restrict human interaction to cubs younger than 36 weeks old or 90 pounds. Dean Oswald, the ranch’s owner, posted a letter on its website asking the governor to sign SB 1236, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson.

“Bear cubs of 60 or 70 pounds can be dangerous,” said critic Harrison. “(Hune) called the Zanesville case one crazy person. Well, getting your picture with a bear cub is crazy.”


~ by topcatsroar on December 21, 2012.


  1. There’s the secret! Get a state senator involved in exotics and he’ll see to it that HIS animals are legal in the state. I wonder if this guy Hune is accredited by both ZAA and AZA?

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