REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio – A new high security building just outside Columbus has cameras, steel cages and a giant fence with electrified wire to hold tigers, snakes and other exotic animals.
The few creatures in the cages right now are a stuffed lion, monkey and snake, but the state’s new Dangerous Wild Animal Temporary Holding Facility is ready for its first animals, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The facility is a result of the new Ohio law that requires owners to register exotic animals such as lions, tigers and some snakes. It’s designed to temporarily house dozens of exotic animals confiscated under the new law.
Officials can seize animals if the owners don’t meet state requirements or are found housing animals without permits.
The law came about after a suicidal eastern Ohio man released dozens of bears, mountain lions and tigers, from his farm in 2011 near Zanesville. Authorities killed 48 of the animals, which included black bears, Bengal tigers and African lions, fearing for the public’s safety.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s holding facility cost $2.9 million and was built in less than three months.
“We’re ready to take an animal today,” state agriculture Director David Daniels told The Dispatch.
Security will be tight and access will be limited. The building won’t be open to the public.
The cages for the largest animals measure 12 by 18 by 10 feet. Some were built solid metal walls to stop them from trying to attack other animals.
The building has an interior gate, a double metal exterior wall, and a 12-foot fence. There are 17 surveillance cameras too.
What is unknown is how many animals it will end up housing.
There are no reliable numbers for how many exotic animals and snakes are in the hands of private owners in the state. “We know there are additional animals out there,” Daniels said.
Staff from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium will feed and clean up after the animals each day.
State Veterinarian Tony Forshey will run the facility.
Healthy animals that are seized or surrendered will be sent to sanctuaries and other facilities nationwide.
The closest neighbor to the facility is a church.
Pastor Bill Hayes said he wasn’t sure about allowing children on the church playground until he found out about all of the security measures.
“I was a little worried about the snakes, but after seeing all the security features and the seven fail-safes, I think everything will be all right,” Hayes said.