Animal Groups Call For Reform In Oklahoma In Wake Of Ohio Tragedy

Thursday, October 20th 2011, 5:26 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

BROKEN ARROW, Oklahoma -- The tragedy in Ohio has one of the largest animal rights group calling for reform here in Oklahoma.

10/19/2011 Related Story: Sheriff: Exotic Animal Farm Owner In Ohio Killed Self

We're one of five states in the union that allows residents own dangerous exotic pets like lions or tigers. The Humane Society is called for that to end.

More than 250 exotic animals call Safari's Sanctuary in Broken Arrow their home. Lori Ensign has tigers, lions, even Rocky the liger, a lion-tiger mix.

She's been watching the situation out of Ohio where dozens of similar animals were killed after being set loose.

"I just thought it was insane and then you saw the pictures and it just breaks your heart," Ensign said.

The case has the Humane Society of the United States criticizing Oklahoma for its lack of laws banning dangerous exotic animals as pets.

"If you make one little mistake with a wild animal there's no recovery from that," said Cynthia Armstrong of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society points to several incidents at exotic animal parks in Oklahoma as examples of why a law is needed.

"Most of our incidents that have happened in Oklahoma have happened in these "roadside zoos" or so called exotic parks," Armstrong said.

One of those took place at Safari's in 2008. Volunteer Peter Getz was killed while feeding Rocky the liger. But Lori Ensign says he didn't follow procedure and walked into Rocky's cage while carrying raw meat.

"If we tighten the laws that still could possibly happen," Ensign said.

Ensign is currently working with lawmakers in Oklahoma to strengthen the exotic pet law in our state, but her big concern is exactly which animals would be banned.

"We need to get specifics and we need to require training. A blanket ban isn't going to help the problem because that'll just make it go on to the black market and it will still continue," she said.

Ensign says she's all for preventing common residents from owning exotic animals. She's just worried that the tragedy in Ohio will lead to laws that will eventually cause bigger problems.

Governor Fallin said she is in favor of sensible regulations.

The governor "believes in sensible rules and regulations to protect public safety, and she is interested in working with legislative leaders to ensure that we have them," said Fallin's Communications Director Alex Weintz.

Weintz added that Governor Fallin does not have the authority to issue an executive order banning ownership of exotic animals.