Commissioners plan to address exotic-pet issue
Next week, Leavenworth County commissioners will take a look at what, if anything, needs to be done to regulate exotic animals in the county.
Don Navinsky, commission chairman, said the commissioners will discuss the matter at 2:30 p.m. Monday.
Leavenworth County is the only county in this area that has no laws regarding exotic pets. This was brought to light by two recent attacks by exotic animals.
On Aug. 19, Misty Allison, 27, was bitten on the arm by a 4-year-old African lion at the rural Tonganoxie home of Richard Provance. On Aug. 26, Pete Cale, 32, was bitten on the wrist by Provance's 4-year-old black bear. Both were treated and released from the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.
Last week, the lion and bear were put under a six-month quarantine, said Herb Nye, Leavenworth County sheriff. The animals will remain where they have been living, but no one is allowed to go near them.
State laws on the keeping of exotic pets are unclear, Nye said.
"State laws say that with wild animals, they shall be killed immediately and the head sent off for evaluation," Nye said.
But he's not sure if the lion and the bear would be classified as "wild" animals.
Glenn Cannizzaro, conservation officer for Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said state law requires that owners of grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, mountain lions and cougars obtain a possession permit.
Currently, there are six permits for these animals in Leavenworth County, he said.
"They range from black bears to mountain lions or cougars," Cannizzaro said.
Other exotics that may be in the county include African lions or Siberian tigers, Cannizzaro said. "Wildlife and Parks doesn't regulate those because they're not native species to Kansas," he said.
Cannizzaro said Leaven-worth County commissioners should either outlaw exotic animals in the county, while grandfathering the existing ones, or establish regulations concerning pen size and fencing.
"Some of these people in the county have real flimsy fencing," Cannizzaro said.
Diane Johnson, owner of Operation Wildlife, believes the county should adopt strict ordinances concerning exotic pets. Operation Wildlife annually rehabilitates and returns back to the wild about 5,000 native wild animals.
"We need to take into consideration that exotic pets are not domesticated animals and they have wild instincts," Johnson said. "If an animal has a history of biting, you know that he's an inherently dangerous animal, so are you going to do anything to fix the problem?"
Johnson said state laws, which say that wild animals that bite should be humanely destroyed and tested for rabies, should be followed. She believes that because Leavenworth County has no laws prohibiting exotic animals, people are moving here so they can have the pets.
"We all have this Walt Disney mentality," she said. "We say, oh aren't those animals cute. But there needs to be some safeguards in place and they need to follow the law."
John Dyster, who lives east of Tonganoxie, has raised emus, llamas, rheas, and other animals. He said the county should stiffen laws against trespassing.
"Humans should learn to respect other people's property," Dyster said. "I don't know exactly what the county could do, but I don't think they should punish the man that owns the animals."