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May-27-2009 06:58printcomments

Senate Bill Would Remove Oregonians' Right to Own Exotic Pets

The folks aren't monkeying around on either side of this issue.
Monkey see monkey do? There are two sides to every story. Activists are pushing hard to ban exotic pets like monkeys, capable of injuring people as shown in the photo on the right, from private ownership.
Courtesy: and

(SALEM, Ore.) - Legislation that would end the ownership of certain wild animals in Oregon passed the Senate today. S.B. 391 would be an enhancement to existing Oregon law that requires a permit to possess certain wild animals as pets.

S.B. 391 will prohibit future possession of alligators, monkeys, lions, tigers, bears, alligators, crocodiles and caimans. People who currently have these animals would be able to keep them under the bill, but not breed or replace them.

S.B. 391, introduced by Senators Mark Hass, D-14, and Brian Boquist, D-23, has passed the Senate and now moves to the full House.

The Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA and the Oregon Humane Society say they applaud the Oregon House Environment and Water Committee for passing S.B. 391 to "prohibit dangerous wild animals as pets."

But Oregonians who own rare and exotic pets, call the legislation misguided. The Animal Training and Ethics Blog questions the amount of research that took place before the Senate vote.

"Why would responsible lawmakers NOT consult the state’s genuine animal experts? For five years we have been offering, begging, to be allowed to participate in shaping this bill so it might actually accomplish its stated goals."

The move to outlaw animals that have been owned for generations in Oregon is drawing support from activists like Nicole G. Paquette, senior vice president and general counsel for Born Free USA, who said, "The owners of these animals are playing Russian roulette with people's lives."

Paquette suggests that monkey and feline attacks are a hazard, "For the safety of people and animals in Oregon, the legislature must act now to prohibit dangerous wild and exotic animals from being kept in private hands."

Yet by their own statistics and for all the "danger" these groups cite, they only identify two events in Oregon where a person was actually hurt by one of the animals on the list. It seems thousands of exotic animals in captivity actually don't turn out to be the worry these groups project.

Activists for exotic pets on the other side of the issue, say opportunities to educate people about the very animals that would be outlawed, would be lost under S.B. 391. They say people need more information, and less knee-jerk reaction, which is certainly no stranger to Oregon politics.

The bloggers at ATEB said, "With so many pressing issues demanding their attention, busy legislators often spend only a few minutes thinking about the animal bills. HSUS/PETA assails them constantly with countless newspaper and television ads, mailings, private member visits, and pressure from paid lobbyists."

They say Senator Mark Hass, the bill’s sponsor, claimed to have "worked with" animal breeders and owners to address concerns since last session, yet they have seen hide nor hair of this legislator.

"In fact, no one in our small and close-knit community (who virtually all oppose this ill-conceived and misguided bill) was ever contacted by the senator or his staff or representatives. And none of the crucial changes we believe would improve this bill were added."

People behind the legislation like Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The HSUS, believe the legislation will protect both public safety and animal welfare.

"Wild animals can attack, they can spread disease and the average citizen cannot meet their needs in captivity. They belong in the wild. Fortunately, state lawmakers are poised to address this issue, and we urge the House to pass S.B. 391."

Owners of these animals disagree with the assessment, suggesting that it is actually a somewhat small, fringe movement that is taking place, but one that is extremely well funded and organized to push laws like Senate Bill 391.

In addition to general ownership of wild and exotic pets, the legislation would also bar "companion pets" that are often useful in treating complicated issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; a burden carried by hundreds of thousands of U.S. military veterans of the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

But that's not enough to sell Sharon Harmon, OHS executive director, on the idea. She said, "Wild animals aren't suitable as companion animals. Having a wild animal in your home puts both the animal and the owner at risk of getting injured."

Activists trying to halt the legislation say one more right is going to disappear in Oregon, and they stress that with education and other laws, the "fear factor" being used by the groups to pass S.B. 391 could be greatly minimized.

In addition to Senators Hass and Boquist, the bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Vicki Berger, R-20, Scott Bruun, R-37, Bill Garrard, R-56, Mike Schaufler, D-48, Brad Witt, D-31 and Arnie Roblan, D-9.


Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor.
Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), the first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several other awards including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website, affiliated with Google News and several other major search engines and news aggregators.
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Chris May 31, 2009 12:42 pm (Pacific time)

It would never occur to me to define exotic animal ownership as a "right". I must've missed that when I've read the Constitution. I'll have to go back and look for it.

Mike H. May 29, 2009 7:25 pm (Pacific time)

Haha, I love Vic's sense of humor and sarcasm. He is right thought, many things are such a ploy nowadays. Like the $40 parking ticket I got for parking at a bagged meter in a construction zone when I was one of the construction workers and was told to park there. Whatever. I thought about writing a nice little letter to them, but decided not to. You can't fight the state.

Vic May 29, 2009 6:03 am (Pacific time)

This business of certain adults inventing and making rules for all the other adults to protect them from themselves (under threat of jail or fines) is ridiculous and insulting. I say everyone should be free to have whatever animal they want as long as it does not threaten or attack other people or animals. I bet more people are hurt by kitchen knives in Oregon than by exotic animals, perhaps our hard-working representatives should explore the idea of banning kitchen knives to Oregonians who hae not completed an expensive course in knife safety complete with a "registration fee" and a "cutting apparatus license", which wouldnt be cheap, but would carry the blessing of the state. The extra revenue generated could fund a state investigation into what other things we should be protected from......

Daniel Johnson May 28, 2009 9:34 pm (Pacific time)

EBR: Eighteenth century mythology. Where did the rights come from? From God? Does that mean that those of who don't believe in that particular god have no rights?

EBR May 28, 2009 7:24 pm (Pacific time)

It IS a right, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happieness. Too many of our rights are being taken away from us nowadays.

Daniel Johnson May 28, 2009 4:16 pm (Pacific time)

“Owning” exotic pets is not a “right” except in a biblical sense. Genesis 1: 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." OR Psalm 8:6-8 6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: 7 all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, 8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas; as just two examples. We have dogs and cats as pets because we have bonded with them over tens of thousands of years. There is politics involved here, which I acknowledge. But the article and the posters are referring to a non-existent right, unless you want to dispense with politics and go straight for the theology.

Cosmo May 27, 2009 9:51 pm (Pacific time)

The politicians are more dangerous to the public than these exotic pets. Let's outlaw the professional legislators who treat the public like serfs.

JB May 27, 2009 8:15 pm (Pacific time)

More people are killed from donkey attacks on average than die in plane crashes annually

Daniel Johnson May 27, 2009 4:00 pm (Pacific time)

What do you get when you cross Lassie with a pit bull? A dog that bites your leg off, then runs for help.

Animal Welfare May 27, 2009 12:25 pm (Pacific time)

Time to ban German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Bull Terriers and Collies. All who have a history of attacking, maiming, injuring and murdering innocent children and adults. All breeds of animals should be judged as murderers, right? This is the animal rights terrorists way of thinking, HSUS and Peta have infiltrated state and local governments. Any legislator who can be influenced by such terror tactics, and misguided information should be removed from office, for not researching the facts on their own. They allow their minds to be brain washed in to the movement that all animals should not be privately owned.

Mike H. May 27, 2009 12:20 pm (Pacific time)

Vic, nice statement. "We need to remove legislators right to remove our rights." I agree. If you wanna own a monkey who kicks your ass, it's your choice. What they need to do is make a bill that would protect OTHER PEOPLE from those peoples decisions. Only when peoples choices infringe on other peoples liberties and freedoms is when there is a problem. Own an alligator and let it bite your arm off for all I care, just don't let it bite MY arm off.

Vic May 27, 2009 12:02 pm (Pacific time)

"Senate Bill Would Remove Oregonians' Right to Own Exotic Pets".....We need to remove legislators right to remove our rights. Who do these primadonnas think they are?

Vic May 27, 2009 11:58 am (Pacific time)

What is ironic is that the one animal that is at the center of nearly every animal attack is OK to have....a pit bull. How many monkey, alligator or tiger attacks have we had the lst year in Oregon? How many pit bull attacks have we had? How many people have been bitten by dogs compared to other animals? Remember the six year old from Woodburn killed a few years back by a chow? I dont recall any fatal tiger or alligator attacks in my 50 years of living in Oregon. This is stupid. You cant have a raccoon (we have raised several), but you can have a dog that is bred for fighting and attacking....Our so-called "public servants" are at their best when it comes to making new laws telling us what we cannot do. Id like to see Mark Hass fight a pit bull..

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