Lions and tigers and bears, goodbye

Tuesday, September 21st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Exotic pets like lions and tigers and bears
would have to say goodbye if the Oklahoma City Council approves
three ordinances it is expected to take up today.

The proposals would require owners of several species of exotic
animals to remove them from the city by next summer. Exceptions are
made for zoos and circuses.

Council members Willa Johnson and Jack Cornett proposed the
ordinances. Ms. Johnson said after an Oklahoma City Zoo keeper lost
an arm last year when attacked by a tapir she was feeding, the city
began receiving complaints about exotic pets like large cats that
people were keeping at their homes.

She said most of the complaints were from people worried about
their safety or concerned about the care of the animals.

"We've been discussing this off and on since 1995," said Dr.
George Cooper, superintendent of the city's animal welfare

The proposals would prohibit nondomestic cats and canines,
bears, venomous reptiles, constricting snakes, crocodiles,
alligators and toxic scorpions. Nonhuman primates, with the
exception of monkeys that are properly tested and licensed, also
would be banned.

Cooper said the focus is on animals that are inherently
dangerous or have the potential for transmitting diseases.

Cooper said Oklahoma City ordinances are geared toward dogs,
cats and livestock. He noted that the ordinances prohibit someone
from having a pot-bellied pig but not a lion or tiger.

He said there was "something out of sync there."

The death of a woman in Luther who was killed by a leopard is
among incidents that have heightened awareness of problems, Cooper

Cooper said several cities have ordinances like those Oklahoma
City is considering.

The proposals are scheduled to be introduced to the City Council
today. A final vote would occur Oct. 12.

Ms. Johnson said one of the ordinances outlined the types of
animals covered. Another deals with primates. The third deals with
emus, ostriches and the like and would restrict them to areas of
the city that are agricultural and 400 feet from residential areas.

Karen Farney, public information director for the city, said
Monday that there has been a great deal of response on both sides
since the proposals were first brought up. She predicted strong
turnout for the council meeting.

"We have a lot of reaction, a lot of phone calls and e-mails
and letters from citizens who want to be heard on both sides," she

The ordinances would not apply to zoos, circuses in town for
fewer than 30 days, licensed veterinarians and research facilities,
public agencies and the city's Animal Welfare Division.

People who have any of the animals now would not be allowed to
keep them if the rules are changed.

Under the proposal, all owners of the animals in question would
have to register them with the city by Jan. 1. The animals would
have to be removed from the city limits by June 1.

Cooper said is owners can't find someone to care for the
animals, the city may be able to help find sanctuaries.