Born Free USA and ASPCA Urge Governor Cuomo to Sign Exotic Animal Bill

Legislature passes bill to regulate dangerous exotic animals, protect public safety
June 21, 2012

Born Free USA and the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), two leaders in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, today commended New York State legislators for passing a bill to enact stricter regulations on exotic animal ownership and urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the legislation into law.

Introduced by Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan) and Senate Environmental Conservation Chairman Mark Grisanti (R-Buffalo), A10041/S7078 penalizes the intentional release of exotic animals and requires owners to pay for damages or expenses incurred when their animals are intentionally released. The bill also requires owners to immediately report animal escapes to local police and animal control.

"Last fall, close to 60 dangerous exotic animals were released by their owner in the tragic Zanesville, Ohio, case, putting the public in frightening and unnecessary danger," said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. "The burden on law enforcement and taxpayers was unprecedented and the state was unprepared. There is an epidemic in this country of owning wild animals as 'pets' and it must stop. This bill provides a reasonable safeguard for New Yorkers who live in communities where potentially dangerous exotic animals are kept in private hands. We are grateful to Assemblymember Rosenthal and Senator Grisanti for their leadership in passing this urgently needed public safety and animal welfare measure.  We hope to see Governor Cuomo sign it into law swiftly."

"Public safety should be the paramount concern of legislators, and having dangerous wild animals in our communities threatens us all," added Bill Ketzer, senior director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Northeast region. "While the animals pay the ultimate price, local governments and taxpayers are left to bear the enormous fiscal burden when dangerous wild animals are set loose or escape, or when they are seized due to neglect. The ASPCA urges Governor Cuomo to quickly sign this measure into law and protect the public from potentially dangerous exotic animals."

New York State currently bans private possession of exotic animals, with an exemption for people who had possession prior to Jan 1, 2005. However, the law does not provide a deterrent for intentional or negligent release of these animals, nor does it provide a means of support for local law enforcement when responding to these actions. Born Free USA tracks reports of dangerous exotic "pets," who are intentionally released or escape, and notes the following recent incidents in New York State:

  • A six-and-a-half-foot-long boa constrictor recently was found by a homeowner under his home in Enfield.
  • A Putnam Lake woman died after apparently being bitten by her loose "pet" black mamba.
  • Two separate attacks by loose "pet" capuchin monkeys occurred in less than four months -- first at a Catskill bed-and-breakfast and then in Oneida Castle.

"New York State has seen a series of wild animal releases and injuries recently, including the attack of an upstate New York woman by a capuchin monkey that escaped from its owner's home and entered the woman's yard," said Assemblymember Rosenthal. "The monkey bit the woman after she reached to protect her child. No one can forget the mauling of a woman by a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut; she was blinded, had her nose, ears and hands severed, and received a total face transplant."

"Although these animals may be beloved pets, they are first and foremost wild animals, and owners of exotic animals must be held accountable when these animals escape or are negligently released," said Senator Grisanti. "When dangerous wild and exotic animals escape or are set loose, local law enforcement and taxpayers are ultimately left to bear the financial burden of recapturing the animal and protecting the community. This legislation seeks to lift this burden and provide the public with reasonable safeguards."