TUESDAY, OCT. 18 will be a day that lives in infamy in Zanesville and the surrounding area, if not the entire state.
That is the day when 56 exotic animals gained freedom and wandered away from their home in Muskingum County. Their cages were unlocked by their caretaker who subsequently committed suicide.
Panic ensued. Hysteria and fear were running rampant as dangerous animals such as lions, tigers and bears were on the loose.
Countless lives were placed in needless jeopardy.
Tragedy ensued. Not with the loss of human life but rather the necessary killing of the animals in order to safeguard the populace.
It was a grim and gut-wrenching time. The memory of that fateful time still haunts the state.
However, the incident may evoke positive change.
State Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) introduced Senate Bill 310 last week. It will be the subject of legislative hearings this week.
It is only fitting a legislator from the impacted area craft such legislation.
Senate Bill 310 calls for strengthening standards for individuals owning wild animals. The proposed legislation calls for three animal classifications: Wild animals, restricted primates and restricted snakes. The bill also calls for new standards to be established as a way to provide current owners of wild and dangerous animals an ability to maintain ownership.
Balderson's proposed legislation does not stop there. It also calls for all future acquisitions of non-human primates and large carnivores (lions, tigers and bears) will be prohibited unless those seeking to purchase the animals are either an accredited sanctuary or recognized as safe and useful facility by a larger association of zoo professionals.
If signed into law, the bill is time friendly as animal owners have until Jan. 1, 2014 to comply with the new guidelines or forfeit their ability to keep any animals that fall into those three aforementioned categories.
We fully support Balderson's legislation. If enacted, it will go a long way in repeating the nightmare than transpired in Muskingum County this past fall.