Friday, December 10, 2010
By Damian Mann
If you want an alligator or monkey as a pet, you're out of luck. The same goes for lions and tigers and grizzlies.
Only Oregon residents who already have permits for some of these exotic animals will be allowed to keep them starting Jan. 1.
The new law
Beginning Jan. 1, the state will not issue any new permits for exotic pets. Current owners will be able to renew their permit and keep their pet until the animal dies or is sold. Owners of exotic pets that don't have permits will have to give them up or sell them legally to someone out of state.
The law covers the following animals:
* Felines not native to Oregon, with the exception of domestic cats.
* Non-wolf canines not indigenous to Oregon, except domestic dogs.
* Primates such as monkeys or capuchins.
* Members of the crocodile family.
Anyone who obtains one of these animals before the new law takes effect will not receive a permit.
* Black bears that aren't wild are OK because they are native, but still fall under Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife rules.
A new state law, passed in 2009, is designed to protect the public from these type of animals and to limit the number of non-native species in Oregon.
"They are still classified as potentially dangerous animals," said Bruce Pokarney, spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Agriculture, which regulates the permits.
Residents who already have a permit will be allowed to get renewals until their exotic pet dies. No permits will be issued for any new pets obtained by Oregon residents from now on.
"It's too late to go out and get a new animal," Pokarney said.
Dave Siddon, executive director for Wildlife Images in Merlin, said he doesn't remember anyone ever asking for a permit for a pet grizzly. The most popular exotics are felines.
Siddon knows all too well how dangerous it can be to own an exotic pet.
Nikki, a sedate-looking Siberian Lynx who barely looked at its raw meat sitting on a table Tuesday, was rescued from Washington after it bit an adult woman and 3-year-old child.
"They were ready to euthanize him," Siddon said.
Many of the animals are easy enough to deal with when they're young, but become powerful predators with sometimes unpredictable instincts when they get older.
Siddon's organization rescues sick, injured and orphaned animals and offers the public a chance to view indigenous species such as cougars, bobcats and bald eagles.
He said many people decide to take ownership of exotic pets without giving it much thought.
"We've been called out for people who died and left their animal in an abominable state," he said. "They think with their emotions, instead of their minds."
Siddon has seen tigers kept in flimsy chicken wire compounds.
Some of the animals can only be cared for in facilities such as Wildlife Images. Kody, a grizzly bear rescued from Alaska, sat comfortably enough in a large enclosure, waiting for his next meal. Because it's wintertime, his intake of fish and chicken goes up from 5,000 calories a day to 25,000, Siddon said.
Wildlife Images exhibits the animals, so it falls under five different regulatory agencies in order to operate, Siddon said.
The Department of Agriculture has issued 49 permits for 88 exotic animals statewide. Most of the permits are for exotic felines, followed by primates.
In Jackson County, three permits have been issued, one for 12 wolves in Rogue River, one for a serval (African wild cat) in Eagle Point and an alligator in Medford.
In Grants Pass, one person has two permits, one for five capuchins and another for a vervet, or primate.
Ultimately the law will result in no more exotic animals in the state, except in wildlife parks designed to house and exhibit them.
Other local laws may restrict snakes and other animals not specifically cited in the new law.
If a resident doesn't have the appropriate permit for one of these exotic animals, law enforcement could remove it.
Any resident who doesn't have a permit and can no longer keep the exotic pet could contact Wildlife Images, which might be able to take the animal. The number is 541-476-0222.
"We expect an influx of these animals once the new law takes effect," Siddon said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.