Ohio’s exotic-animal facility now open

http://www.coshoctontribune.com/article/20130228/NEWS01/302280035/Ohio-s-exotic-animal-facility-now-open  [VIDEO AT LINK -Press conference]

Ohio’s exotic-animal facility now open

Officials unveil exotic animal holding facility

Alcatraz for exotic animals: A host of Central Ohio journalists got their first look at a 20,000-square-foot facility in Licking County built to hold any dangerous animal, from large snakes to large cats and bears.

REYNOLDSBURG — For a large animal, such as a tiger or bear, to escape the state’s new Dangerous Wild Animal Temporary Holding Facility, it would need to break out of an enclosure surrounded by six-gauge wire, then escape through a floor-to-ceiling fence made of the same material before knocking down two reinforced steel doors.

That would get it only to the spacious interior of the facility. From there, it would need to knock down another reinforced door and somehow get through a 12-foot-tall fence buried in the ground and equipped with a 4-foot cantilever outfitted with barbed wire and live electricity. After that, there would be just one more fence.

In other words, Ohio Department of Agriculture officials said Thursday, the new facility was built to hold any dangerous animal, from large snakes to large cats and bears.

A host of Central Ohio journalists got their first look Thursday at the 20,000-square-foot facility, which stands on the department’s campus on U.S. 40 in western Licking County.

The facility cost the state slightly less than $2.8 million to build, and department Director David Daniels said the facility’s mission is simple.

“We want to bring an animal in and keep it safe, keep the public safe from it, and move it on and find a permanent home as soon as possible,” Daniels said.

The state built the facility in three months. It stands in the rear of the department’s eight-building complex.

Inside, there are three rooms outfitted to house dangerous animals. The largest of the three holds 30 enclosures, all surrounded by six-gauge wire, for large animals.

The smallest room has 12 enclosures for snakes and reptiles. The vent on the floor of the room contains a screen to prevent the possibility of escape.

Another room is outfitted for primates. It has four enclosures, each capable of housing multiple primates.

The overhead lights in both of the smaller rooms mirror those installed in prisons, meaning they cannot be lifted up to access crawl spaces or vents.

All three rooms contain 360-degree cameras, and the facility includes strategically placed motion sensors. If something looks amiss, the sensors instantly will send a photo to department staff.

All told, there are seven levels of containment within the building, said Robert Kibler, the department’s campus supervisor.

That containment includes heightened protocols for bringing animals into the facility.

Of the two exterior gates, the one closest to the building will not be opened until the one behind it is closed.

Once inside the building, the department has put in place a procedure to safely get the animals from their transport cages to their enclosures so there is no chance of an animal escape.

If one does escape, the various levels of doors and fencing are there to keep it from getting outside the building, Kibler said.

The building itself was constructed using double-sided steel, and there are another eight inches of insulation in it. The roof, meanwhile, was built to withstand 90 mph winds.

Security will be so tight, Daniels said, only a handful of department employees will be allowed inside.

Neither the public nor Daniels will be be permitted to see the animals, much less get through the gates.

“When this is all said and done, I will not have access to this building,” said Daniels, adding that only five people will have access.

The state built the facility in response to a 2011 incident in Muskingum County in which Zanesville area resident Terry Thompson released 56 exotic animals before committing suicide.

Local law-enforcement personnel killed many of the animals, citing their threat to public safety. The rest were taken to the Columbus Zoo.

Afterward, a policy debate led to the creation of Senate Bill 310 in 2012.

The bill required residents to get permits for their existing exotic animals, and it prohibits the ownership of new ones.

It also enacted a series of rules surrounding the ownership of the animals.

Unless exempted, anyone in the state in possession of registered exotic animal must have a permit by Jan. 1, 2014.

According to the department, there are 142 privately registered owners of exotic animals in the state. They own a total of 360 animals. That figure includes 134 primates, 32 alligators, 48 tigers and 46 bears.

In the meantime, the department’s new facility stands empty — but likely not for long.

Dangerous wild animals, Daniels said, could be housed in the facility at any time, including now.

Since the state law took effect, the department has helped transfer more than 100 dangerous wild animals from their former owners to out-of-state sanctuaries and reserves, state veterinarian Tony Forshey said.

Moving forward, the state will be able to keep the animals at the facility before transferring them to permanent homes, Forshey said, stressing the facility will not serve as a permanent home for the animals.

“We’re only going to keep animals in here long enough to find a permanent home for them,” he said.

Forshey and other department officials said the animals will receive professional veterinary care.

They also will be monitored 24 hours per day and be well fed and cared for, with their enclosures cleaned twice each day.

As for how many large snakes, tigers and other exotic animals the facility could house at one time, department officials said that is impossible to know since the new law just went into effect.

Department officials think the facility will be needed for some time, at least until the currently owned exotic animals die.

“We would view this facility very well could be needed in the state for the next 10 to 15 years,” Daniels said.

The heightened security measures, Daniels added, are not just for the animals but also for people who might want to see them.

“We’re just as concerned with what’s in the building as what’s outside the building,” he said.

Department officials said they do not intend to notify the public of what animals the facility takes into its care, but Daniels said it does plan on notifying local law enforcement, including Reynoldsburg police and the Licking County Sheriff’s Office.

The site stands in far southwestern Licking County, abutted by Etna Township.

Etna officials, in response to complaints from some residents, had investigated suing the state to stop it from building the facility, but they now appear resigned to living with the facility in the township’s backyard.

“We’re against it, but I don’t think there’s much we can do to stop it,” Etna Trustee John Carlisle said. “We’re going to keep a watchful eye on it.”

The trustees, Carlisle said, did not have legal standing to sue the state to stop the facility.

They consulted with the Licking County Prosecutor’s Office before learning they had limited options outside resignation.

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Disclaimer connected to this blog…Things said are of my opinion and the opinion of others…Stay tuned and follow this blog…Hear me Roar  ~B

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~ by topcatsroar on March 1, 2013.

One Response to “Ohio’s exotic-animal facility now open”

  1. […] Are these animals kept like the animals in Ohio in Alcatraz?!? https://topcatsroar.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/ohios-exotic-animal-facility-now-open/ […]

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