After receiving more than 200 public comments on a proposed law, a board charged with coming up with a list of banned animals in the state has decided to eliminate from the list many of the animals that caused public outcry.
However, some of those animals could still be added to the list before the board submits a final proposed rule with the West Virginia Secretary of State.
During the last legislative session, the West Virginia Legislature passed the Dangerous Wild Animals Act, which directed the board to come up with a list of animals unsafe to keep as pets.
The originally proposed rule, submitted to the Secretary of State’s office on July 2, included many animals that attracted public scrutiny, including certain types of birds, sugar gliders, certain hybrid cats, turtles, hedgehogs, tetra fish, and geckos.
The West Virginia Department of Agriculture also received public comment on rabbits, alpacas, ferrets, and guinea pigs, although those animals are actually exempt from the law, according to Jewell Plumley, state veterinarian/ director of the animal health division of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
The new list of banned animals, borrowed from Ohio, is more limited and includes animals that didn’t attract public comments, including crocodiles, hyenas, lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards, bears, alligators, elephants, komodo dragons, nonhuman primates other than lemurs and snakes that are six feet or longer, among other animals.
At a meeting on Thursday, several board members expressed appreciation for the public input, but also concern about confusion and misinformation.
“It was quite obvious people in our state are very passionate about their animals,” said Nancy Sullivan, assistant to the cabinet secretary of DHHR.
Sullivan said the board hadn’t intended to create panic about household pets.
“I’ve seen a lot of pictures of sugar gliders, and they are beautiful,” she said. “I’m sure they make wonderful pets. We still have to consider what is safe and prudent for our citizens, and an alligator is not a pet.”
Plumley made a motion to replace the list in the proposed rule with a new, simpler list, which uses common names for animals and doesn’t list animals by order and class, as the original did.
After some discussion, board members decided to ask a technical subcommittee to work on merging the two lists, rather than filing an amended proposed rule with the Secretary of State’s office.
The board subcommittee plans to hold a public meeting to work out a compromise between both lists at 9 a.m. on July 23 at the Division of Natural Resources offices second floor conference room in South Charleston.
The entire board plans to meet again at 1 p.m. on July 30 at the administrative office building of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture complex in Guthrie.
The public comment period ends August 1 at 12 p.m. The final proposed rule will be sent to an interim legislative committee, the rule-making review committee, by the end of the day.
Public comments can be sent to Jodee Martin at the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, 1900 Kanawha Blvd. E, Charleston, W.Va. 25305. Comments can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The West Virginia Legislature, will again accept public comment before making the rule law.
Reach Erin Beck at email@example.com, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.