American Bar Association Protects Animals and Public Safety

Posted by Chris Green, ALDF Director of Legislative Affairs on March 9, 2015


On Monday February 9, the American Bar Association’s (ABA) house of delegates adopted Resolution 105 urging all legislative bodies to pass laws that prohibit:

“the possession, sale, breeding, import, or transfer of dangerous wild animals, such as big cats, bears, wolves, primates, and dangerous reptiles, in order to protect public safety and health, and to ensure the humane treatment and welfare of such animals.”

This means that the ABA puts its full endorsement behind the policy position that private ownership of dangerous wild animals should be prohibited throughout the U.S.—subject to reasonable exemptions for “non-profit wildlife sanctuaries, facilities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and research institutions.” The ABA’s 400,000 nationwide membership and impeccable credibility for objectively pursuing justice and uniformity in the law makes this a significant step. Indeed, trade groups who promote exotic animal ownership already are lamenting passage of Resolution 105, stating: “Th[is] Report presents new problems for all exotic animal owners and keepers…”; “Without question, this Report will make its way into legislatures across the country…”; and, “This edict, adopted and approved by the ABA, will be a persuasive argument to politicians.”

As the current chair of the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee, I initiated Resolution 105 over three years ago, after dozens of dangerous wild and exotic animals were set loose in the rural Ohio community of Zanesville. The culprit, Terry Thompson, was a recently released convicted felon who had a history of animal cruelty. Reportedly distraught over separating from his wife, Thompson intentionally released more than 50 wild animals from his private menagerie and then took his own life on October 18, 2011.

When law enforcement officials arrived at the scene, they quickly had to choose between using lethal force to stop the animals or risking harm to human life. With nightfall approaching, the difficult decision was made, and over the next few hours police officers shot and killed 49 of the dangerous wild animals Thompson had released, including tigers, lions, bears, mountain lions, wolves, and a baboon.

At the time, Ohio was one of seven U.S. states that shockingly had absolutely no laws restricting private possession of dangerous wild and exotic animals. Bizarrely, while Ohio allowed ownership of grizzly bears, tigers, and venomous snakes with no oversight in 2011, possessing “pit bull-type” dogs was a crime. Both Ohio laws have since been changed through the committed work of animal advocates. But five U.S. states still allow anyone to own any dangerous animal without even so much as a permit. Those states are: Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin. In addition to the obvious animal welfare concerns, privately owned exotic animals have killed more than 40 Americans over the past 25 years, including eight children—such as the 10-year old boy who was mauled to death by his aunt’s 400 pound Bengal tiger.

The ABA’s passage of Resolution 105 will greatly help us end the hazardous and harmful practice of exotic animal ownership, and prevent the future captivity of animals such as Tony the Truck Stop tiger and Ricky the bear. Thanks go out to all my colleagues in the ABA-TIPS Animal Law Committee for helping pass this important measure.

16 thoughts on “American Bar Association Protects Animals and Public Safety

  1. Dan Rooker says:

    Should have happened years ago

  2. Cynthia says:

    YAY !

  3. Margaret & Edward Strickland says:

    Does this mean ownership of any kind and what about endangered species such as elephants and other mammals such as Ocas and dolphins?

    Does this apply to Circuses, Zoos and Aquariums?

    1. Right-since the statute’s authors inserted the word “dangerous”, this creates a problem.

  4. Mary Kent says:

    No soul should be held in captivity of any kind!!

  5. Geraldine Spino says:

    please adopt Resolution 105

  6. Barbara Bocca says:

    No wild animals in American back yards!

    1. Peggy Modjesky says:

      “Wild animals” are moving into back yards because we have destroyed their natural habitat. Any laws passed about “ownership” need to be thoughtfully and carefully worded. For example, legitimate zoos do good work breeding animals that are already endangered in the wild.

      Proceed carefully.

      1. Dana Kingsley says:

        Born Free to live free. Not ours to command or keep as pets. Zoos are cruel and not necessary in todays world. Let them be themselves without being confined.

  7. Joanne I'Anson says:

    At least Ricky the bear has her freedom now!
    It’s Tony’s turn!!!
    Please hurry up and pass/adopt Resolution 105

  8. Joyce McNevin says:

    This is great…our wildlife needs to be protected from ownership. We need laws carefully thought out so all avenues are covered and so that these animals aren’t falling into loopholes or gaps the laws may have left. I agree too that your laws need to be carefully written. Thank you for caring and becoming involved.

  9. Pekka Rosvall says:

    Finally this is happening.

  10. Cindy Nelson says:

    Help. Our pets are being trapped and dumped or killed in Lincoln Kansas. What can we do legally?

  11. Marilyn Byrne Graziano says:

    There are WILD ANIMALS AND Pets! Pets are so called because they live with us and have done so for thousands of years! THE WILD ANIMALS the adjective that describes them means just that THEY ARE “WILD” Not to be kept as pets they are not pets!!!! What does it take to make these people understand that Tigers,Lions Elephants are not to be kept as pets!!

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