UPDATE: Judge orders seized exotic animals returnedWritten by Staff Reports | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Following the denial of an exotic animal permit, the 12 animals at Tiger Ridge Exotics in Stony Ridge were seized by the Ohio Department of Agriculture on Jan. 28, but later that day a judge halted the transfer order and ordered the animals returned to the farm.
“The Search Warrant previously ordered in this matter is stayed and all personal property taken or confiscated belonging to Kenneth Hetrick will be immediately returned. Further ordered that the transfer order for the animals is stayed. It is ordered that the seized animals be promptly returned commensurate with safety to the animals,” the injunction from Wood County Common Pleas Court Judge Reeve Kelsey read.
Department spokesperson Erica Hawkins said the seizure occurred because owner Kenny Hetrick’s exotic animal permit application was denied.
Animals at the site included six tigers and a black leopard, which are considered endangered animals, as well as two lions, a Kodiak brown bear, a liger, a bobcat and a wolf hybrid.
The animals were transported to an Ohio Department of Agriculture care facility in Reynoldsburg, where they will be cared for by veterinarians, Hawkins said.
It’s unclear when the animals will be returned.
“The order does not have a time frame in it other than when it is safe for the animals,” Hawkins wrote in an email to Toledo Free Press.
The application was denied Jan. 13 because it was filed late and because a November site visit prompted “significant safety concerns” both with caging issues and care issues related to water and unsafe caging, according to a letter from the department.
RELATED: Click here to read Hetrick’s Application Denial
Hetrick applied for the permit on Oct. 17, 10 months past the application deadline of Jan. 1, 2014.
“That is a really big thing,” Hawkins said. “The law was very specific in laying out timelines for people who had animals and wanted to keep them.”
Among the “most egregious” caging violations listed in the denial letter include unlocked cages, improperly secured chain link fencing and other enclosure issues, such as a tiger enclosure that could make escape “alarmingly easy for the animals to escape should they become properly motivated.”
Among the care issues cited in the letter include puddled water due to poor drainage, green-colored water with debris present, meat with “obvious pungent odor” and shelters with exposed sharp edges.
Hetrick had no comment when reached by phone Jan. 28.
“They’re taking them. I can’t talk about it,” he said.
Hetrick, who had exotic animals for 40 years, told Toledo Free Press in December he takes good care of his animals, and didn’t apply for the permit on time because he needed time to find the money for the permit application.
Hetrick had been told by the state he needed to comply with a 2012 state regulation to obtain a permit or hand over his animals.
The law was signed after a 2011 incident near Zanesville in which dozens of exotic animals were shot and killed by law enforcement after being released by their owner.
Sixty-three new permits were issued in 2014, Hawkins said.