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Oregon adopts prohibition on exotic pets

SALEM — Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed legislation on July 1, 2009 to prohibit possession of wild animals as pets.

The bill, which was introduced in the state legislature by Sens. Mark Hass, D-14, and Brian Boquist, D-23, ends private possession of many wild animals in the state, including wild cats, most wild canids, bears, non-human primates and alligators and crocodiles.

“Oregon has become the 29th state to prohibit the private possession of dangerous wild animals,” said Nicole G. Paquette, senior vice president and general counsel for Born Free USA. “Primates don't belong in apartments in Portland and alligators don't belong in backyards in Ashland.”

Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States, said wild animals kept as pets can attack and spread disease, and the average citizen cannot meet their needs in captivity.

Before passage of the bill, Oregon required a permit to possess certain wild animals as pets. S.B. 391 prohibits future acquisition of these animals and adds alligators, crocodiles and caimans to the list. People who currently have these animals will be able to keep them, but not breed or replace them.

At the federal level, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is the lead author of H.R. 80, the Captive Primate Safety Act, which would ban the interstate commerce in apes, monkeys and other primates for the pet trade. It would complement state laws on the possession of dangerous exotic animals, since many of these animals are purchased over the Internet and through other interstate instruments. The Captive Primate Safety Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives in February overwhelmingly and was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on May 14. It is now pending in the full Senate.

Previous incidents involving exotic animals in Oregon include:

A monkey brought by a man to a Salem park scratched a 6-year-old girl, causing puncture wounds below her eye, in April 2009.

A pet alligator escaped from a Gresham home and was found walking along the Springwater Trail in September 2008.

The body of a dead three-foot alligator was found in a creek in Douglas County in March 2007.

A pet capuchin monkey escaped from an enclosure in Lincoln County in April 2007.

A serval (an African wild cat) escaped from a home near Aurora in November 2006. The animal was recaptured only to escape again on the way home.

A pet lynx escaped and jumped on a 6-year-old girl's head in Clackamas County in August 2005.