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RICHMOND--Officials attempting to better regulate exotic and possibly dangerous animals in Virginia heard two sides of the debate Wednesday: a man who packs a shotgun for fearing of encountering his neighbor's wayward primates and a teenager who owns boa constrictors and is part of a rescue group that takes in reptiles that are abandoned.
The spoke at a public meeting conducted by the 32 members of the Dangerous Animals Initiative, created after a man in Ohio let loose more than 50 lions, tigers and other exotic wildlife after killing himself one year ago. The animals had to be put down out of concern for the public's safety, and Ohio enacted tightened regulations on owning exotic animals as a result.
Dozens gathered in a suburban Richmond office building to voice their opinions about the prospect of more regulations.
The committee--which includes state officials, animal protection groups, private zoo operators, law enforcement and others--has said it's primarily interested in wading through a patchwork of state and federal regulations to ensure a situation like Ohio's does not occur in Virginia. Ohio had lax laws regarding exotic animals.
The group, which is expected to issue recommendations in late December, is primarily interested in venomous snakes and monkeys and constricting snakes. Laws governing the possession of big cats and bears are also being studied.
Farm animals are not part of the review.