A bill introduced in the Nevada Senate last week would classify certain exotic and wild animals as “dangerous” and ban them as pets in the state. SB 245 was introduced by Republican Minority Leader Michael Roberson of Henderson and lists the types of animals — including primates — that would be illegal for private parties to keep, own, sell or breed.
The list also includes alligators, raccoons, hyenas, poisonous snakes, bears, gray wolves, cheetahs, lions, tigers and leopards. (There are exceptions for accredited zoos, circuses, research facilities, wildlife sanctuaries and animal shelters.)
“This is a safety issue, No. 1, and also an (instrument) on how exotic animals should be treated. You shouldn’t have these animals locked up in a basement of a home. It is cruel to the animals and very unsafe to the people who live in the neighborhood,” Roberson told the ReviewJournal.com.
"It has been clear for some time that is a free-for-all in Nevada when it comes to owning dangerous exotic animals as pets," Roberson said, referring to a wild rampage by two chimpanzees who escaped their compound in northwest Las Vegas last summer. That incident was the second escape from the enclosure by a female chimp, named CJ.
In the first escape, Buddy, her mate, was shot by a police officer when he began jumping on top of cars and “aggressively approached” onlookers, reports SFgate.com.
CJ was tranquilized the first time and returned to her owners but, when she got loose a second time, she was moved to a sanctuary in Oregon.
Roberson, R-Henderson, pledged then to push for legislation to prohibit ownership of dangerous animals. "In order to protect the public, there needs to be strong oversight of these private owners who, in most cases, do not have the expertise needed to properly care for these animals,” he said.
The chimps were owned by Nikki Grusenmeyers and Timmi DeRosa, who is a longtime exotic-animal owner and trainer. DeRosa alleged that the second escape occurred because an animal-rights activist released the chimp.
Roberston stated, “We are not telling people they cannot have animals they already have, but [we are] joining 43 other states who have these regulations,” ReviewJournal.com reported. He questioned why anyone would want to keep dangerous animals and said he was worried about a child being injured or killed.
Only six states other than Nevada have no restrictions on keeping wild animals as pets. In those states oversight is left largely to local governments through county and municipal codes.
Under a “grandfather” provision, SB 245 would allow current owners of dangerous animals as of July 1, to keep those animals. But they would not be allowed to acquire additional dangerous animals after that date, and no new pet buyers could acquire such animals on or after that date.
Possession, sale or importation of any of the listed animals would be a misdemeanor crime under the proposed law, usually punished by probation and a fine, ReviewJournal.com reports.
SB 245 will be heard on a yet-unscheduled date by the Senate Natural Rescources Committee, at which time public comment will be taken.