13-year-old undergoing rabies shots
A 13-year-old rural Tonganoxie girl who was bitten on the hand by a black bear on Nov. 13 is undergoing rabies shots, the girl's mother said Monday.
"We were given the choice to either have the bear killed and the head sent to K-State, or we could have done the shots," the girl's mother said.
Her daughter had mixed emotions, she said. "She was worried for the bear. When they said they were going to kill it, she cried."
The mother said she didn't blame the biting incident on the bear.
"My daughter did stick her hand in the cage, so she was partly at fault," the mother said. "We think it was just an accident because the bear could have hurt her a lot worse if he had wanted to hurt her."
According to the sheriff's report, the girl had been playing ball near the rural home of Richard Provance about five miles north of Tonganoxie. When the ball rolled near the bear's cage, she picked it up and then reached to pet the bear. The bear grabbed her hand and bit her.
When asked if she thought the county needed an ordinance specifying what type of cages should be required for exotic animals, the girl's mother said she had no comment.
"But I understand that the Provances plan to put an additional fence around the bear's cage," she said.
Gloria Provance, who has lived here for 13 years, said her son, Richard Provance II, has kept two black bears and three African lions near her rural home for about two and one-half years.
"We wouldn't have a problem with the county making rules about cages," Provance said.
"If they say our cages aren't strong enough, we'll do what we have to do. We've even thought about putting up a perimeter fence."
Provance said the family was sorry the girl was bitten and said this is the first time anyone had been harmed by the animals.
"I think what happened is that she decided to pet him and she had been eating candy," Provance said. "Yogi is a candy-lover, and when she reached in to pet him, he tried to lick the candy off her hand and she jerked."
Her eight grandchildren and their friends are usually very good about staying away from the bear's cages, she said. "We have a three-year-old and he never goes in that direction."
When the lions and bears were young, they were sometimes allowed out of their cages.
"We used to let them play in the yard with the kids," Provance said. "But they're too big to let out anymore."
Leavenworth County Commissioner Bob Adams said that every year or two the topic of exotic animal regulations comes before the commission.
"But there just seems to not be a unified desire to proceed with that," Adams said.
Unlike surrounding counties, Leavenworth County has no exotic animal ordinance.
Glenn Cannizzaro, conservation officer for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said that residents in the county are only required to provide adequate food, water and protection from the elements. They also must have a possession permit. There are no regulations on cage construction.
Adams said that with the growth the county has experienced lately, regulations regarding exotic animals may be needed.
Cannizzaro said that there are six families in the county who have animals ranging from black bears to African lions to Siberian tigers.
"When you talk about lions, tigers and bears, to me that's not just a house pet," Adams said. "I agree we should have some safeguards established. If we're going to house all the exotic animals in the state of Kansas right here in Leavenworth County, then we need to address the issues of safety."