Ashton Marra Published

Dangerous Wild Animals: Who Made the List?


When you hear the phrase “dangerous wild animals,” what image pops into your head? A lion? Tiger? Bear?

State officials are working to define what a dangerous wild animal is in order to restrict West Virginia residents from keeping them as pets. It’s an effort Sen. Bob Beach of Monongalia County said started for him in 2004 as chair of the House Agriculture committee.

“We just couldn’t get enough traction on it,” he said. “Then, low and behold, a few years later we had the incident in Ohio just outside of Wheeling.”

Beach is referring to a 2011 incident in Zanesville, Ohio, where some 50 exotic animals were released from a privately owned zoo in town. While no humans were injured in the incident, almost all of the escaped animals were put down.

So, in the interest of public safety, Beach and his counterpart Delegate Randy Swartzmiller tried the bill again this year and were able to garner enough support to get it passed on a vote of 69-23 in the House and 22-11 in the Senate.

After passage, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act required the Department of Agriculture to assemble a commission charged with defining which animals are and are not safe to keep as pets. The commission has completed the initial phase its work, releasing its draft list last week.

Beach said this draft list, however, is just the beginning of the process.

The Department of Agriculture will take comments from the public until August 1. Then the appointed commission will consider the suggestions and make changes. Finally, the list will come before the legislature for approval during their next session.