CHARLESTON (AP) — The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Friday that would require owners of exotic animals to obtain state permits by July and ban all future purchases or sales of these animals.
In a rare show of dissension, one senator voted against the bill because of concerns about how quickly it would go into effect and which animals it would cover.
West Virginia joins a string of states looking to regulate or ban private individuals from owning dangerous animals like tigers and chimpanzees following the release of dozens of wild animals in Zanesville, Ohio, last year.
The state could confiscate animals if the owners violate the proposed law or if the animals pose a threat to humans or other animals. Owners could be subject to inspections. Zoos, circuses and sanctuaries would be exempt.
The bill would also require the Division of Natural Resources to draft a list of which animals would be banned. The House version lists specific types of animals that would fall under the ban, like constricting snakes.
Sen. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston, voted against the bill because it is too broad and gives the DNR too much discretion to decide what animals end up on the list. He said the rules could restrict owning a parrot or a goldfish.
Sypolt also questioned the July 1 effective date of the proposed law. He said the DNR should not be required to draft emergency regulations in the next few months but should undergo the normal yearlong rule-writing process that involves public input.
“Why are we in such a hurry?” Sypolt said.
Existing state law provides pet permits for some native animals and commercial permits for captive deer. State law also prohibits keeping some animals like raccoons as pets because of the risk of rabies.
But officials have no idea how many people own exotic animals because state law doesn’t require owners to report them.