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Ohio governor signs executive order on dangerous animals

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 6:58 PM EDT, Fri October 21, 2011
A sign warns drivers Wednesday in Zanesville, Ohio. Gov. John Kasich says he wants to tighten laws for exotic animals.
A sign warns drivers Wednesday in Zanesville, Ohio. Gov. John Kasich says he wants to tighten laws for exotic animals.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Humane Society calls the governor's response "inadequate"
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich says the law must change
  • He talks just days after authorities shot exotic animals on the loose
  • Of the 56 animals released, only six were taken alive

(CNN) -- Ohio's governor on Friday signed an executive order covering ownership of dangerous wild animals, which will strengthen enforcement of existing laws, and said he will push for tighter regulations through legislation.

Gov. John Kasich spoke to reporters just days after authorities in his state used lethal force against exotic animals on the loose.

Police believe the animals' owner, Terry Thompson, 62, freed the animals -- lions, tigers, leopards and grizzly bears -- at his preserve near Zanesville before dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"Fortunately, today, I'm able to sign an executive order that will have teeth, that is founded in the law, and gives power to people," the governor said.

Among other directives, the executive order instructs the departments of agriculture, natural resources and health to work with local health officials, humane societies and law enforcement to identify locations where dangerous animals might be, investigate and enforce laws that are already on the books, Kasich said.

It also directs agencies to work with the zoos to safely house animals that are captured or confiscated, and orders the agriculture department to identify unlicensed auctions of dangerous animals and take appropriate action.

Finally, the order instructs the state's department of natural resources to develop a framework for legislative change by the end of November.

According to the governor, state officials do not currently have the authority to track down exotic and dangerous animals that are not native to Ohio.

"Let me be clear on this. We will seek statutory authority. Changes must be made in the law," said Kasich.

Ohio authorities were called to the area around Thompson's house Tuesday night.

Of the 56 animals released, only a grizzly bear, two monkeys and three leopards were taken alive, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.

Killed were two wolves, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one baboon, three mountain lions, and 18 Bengal tigers. One monkey remained unaccounted for Wednesday night, though Lutz, and conservationist Jack Hanna, said the animal may have been eaten by one of the big cats.

The Humane Society of the United States has said it does not fault authorities for using deadly force in such a situation.

However, on Friday, the group criticized the governor's response by saying the order he signed "is inadequate and sidesteps the central problems created by the exotic animal trade in Ohio.

"The Humane Society of the United States agrees with him (Kasich) that the legislature should enact a statute that addresses the problem, but in the interim, we need an executive order that bans the sale and acquisition of dangerous wild animals as pets or roadside attractions," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the group.

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