West Virginia Drawing Up List of Dangerous Animals

July 29, 2014

A board tasked with compiling a list of animals that are illegal to keep as pets in West Virginia will consider one that’s shorter than a list suggested earlier.

Media outlets report the state Wild and Dangerous Animal Board will meet on Wednesday as it tries to comply with legislation passed earlier this year.

Gone from the amended list are savannah cats, turtles, hedgehogs and sugar gliders. Those were on the board’s original list that has drawn more than 200 public comments and prompted a subcommittee to work out a compromise. The board will now consider the subcommittee’s list.

Paul Johansen, assistant wildlife chief at the state Division of Natural Resources, said the revised list is “significantly shorter.”

“I would say the board has been extremely responsive to the public comments we received to date,” Johansen said. “We’ve taken them very seriously.”

Wendy Skidmore of Lost Creek owns sugar gliders, which are small, gliding possums.

“I do agree there are some dangerous animals people should not own,” Skidmore said. “Sugar gliders are not one of them.”

Josie McInturff of Pipestem breeds savannah cats and said both she and her customers consider the animals playful.

“They’re just a special kind of house cat, but they’re really no different than a house cat, and to have them on the list, I thought was just crazy,” she said.

The law passed this year clamps down on new animals brought into West Virginia. Residents who already own creatures on the list can keep them if they get a board permit, pay a fee and not breed or replace the animals.

The board is supposed to present its list to the Legislature, which will then accept it or make changes.

The legislation was in response to a 2011 incident in Ohio in which a resident there let dozens of dangerous animals loose, including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers.

Delegate Larry D. Kump, R-Berkeley, said individuals and groups haven’t lobbied for legislation that would stop an incident like that from happening in West Virginia.

“All this seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to something that happened in Ohio,” Kump said.”Regardless of what comes out of these rules when they’re promulgated and this bill is not repealed, I don’t see it making a difference in West Virginia and with West Virginians anyway. All we’re going to do is have more regulation, more expense.”

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