CHARLESTON - West Virginia's Dangerous Wild Animal Board has thrown out a proposed list of banned exotic animals and will now use a list created for Ohio.
The board's technical committee will meet next week to review and make adjustments to the list, which was created and approved by the Ohio Legislature following the 2011 release of exotic and dangerous animals from a private zoo in Zanesville.
Some parts of the new list are very specific to Ohio and will have to be revised for West Virginia. Butch Antolini, spokesman for the Department of Agriculture, cited banned snakes as an example.
"The Ohio list says snakes of 12 feet (are banned) and West Virginia law already says six feet," he said.
Nancy Sullivan, assistant to the director of the state Division of Natural Resources and a member of the board, asked for the technical committee to look at both lists and to add to the new list creatures from the original list that were not objected to or that are considered dangerous. Sullivan said the Ohio list does not include any fish, but WVDNR believes several species of fish do pose a danger.
The original list, which was published July 2 for public comment, was considered confusing and covered a wide selection of animals, ranging from dangerous creatures such as tigers to small exotic pets like hedgehogs and sugar gliders. There also were omissions, such as monkeys and gorillas, that left people scratching their heads.
The state Department of Agriculture has received 206 comments so far, with the public comment period slated to end at noon Aug. 1. Officials said the most comments, 28, dealt with rabbits, which were included on the list of dangerous and banned animals.
The next most commented on creature was sugar gliders, with 22 comments protesting their inclusion on the list.
Turtles, hedgehogs, fish, birds, ferrets, alpacas and geckos rounded out the most commented on creatures. In some cases, such as rabbits, ferrets and alpacas, state law already allows for ownership and those animals would be exempt.
Officials said only one comment so far has been in favor of the exotic animals law. Many comments complained on the possible economic consequences of banning some animals for pet stores or those who raise exotic animals as livestock.
Paul Johansen, assistant chief in charge of game management for DNR, said the feedback was invaluable.
"I was very pleased with the response we got from the public. That is exactly what we were looking for," he said. "This has generated a significant amount of public interest. We're taking those comments seriously and they are all being reviewed."
Jewell Plumley, state veterinarian for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture and chair of the Dangerous Wild Animal Board, said the Ohio list uses more simplified language, referring to animals by name rather than by species or group. It also is more clear on restrictions and exemptions, she said.
The new list will continue on public comment period until noon Aug. 1. Comments can only be submitted in writing to The West Virginia Department of Agriculture, Attn: Jodee Martin,1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East Charleston, WV 25305, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Dangerous Wild Animal Board will meet July 30 to consider more public comments and the revised animal list.