CHARLESTON (AP) — The public has an opportunity to weigh in on the state’s proposed list of dangerous animals that would be banned under a new law.
The list developed by the Wild and Dangerous Animal Board includes chimpanzees, crocodiles, giraffes, elephants, piranha, and several types of pythons.
The law passed this year only clamps down on new animals brought into West Virginia. Residents who already own creatures on the list can keep them if they get a permit from the board. There will be a $100 fee for each permit and the animals cannot be bred or replaced.
The list, which must be approved by the Legislature, is contained in a proposed legislative rule filed Wednesday by the Department of Agriculture. The rule would require the board to meet by Dec. 1 every year to review permits or to discuss whether new animals should be added to the list.
The public comment period runs through Aug. 1.
Some changes may be needed before the list is finalized. All rabbits and hares are on the list but the state does not plan to ban domestic rabbits, Department of Agriculture spokesman Butch Antolini told the Charleston Daily Mail.
Antolini said the state veterinarian believes domestic rabbits are covered by a part of law exempt in the new rule.
“If some things need to be spelled out further, that’s what needs to take place,” he told the newspaper.
Antolini said state officials expect many comments from the public on the proposed list.
West Virginia decided to determine which wildlife will be illegal for people to own after an Ohio citizen in 2011 let dozens of dangerous animals loose, including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers.
The new law exempts a variety of accredited groups, like zoos, animal control, veterinarians, dealers and exhibitors.
Under the law, releasing a dangerous animal could earn a year in jail and $500 to $2,500 in fines. If the animal hurts someone, penalties reach the felony level, with a possible one to three years in state prison and $1,000 to $5,000 in fines.