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Ohio opens its exotic animals facility
The need grew from a new state law setting new requirements for private owners of lions, tigers, snakes and more

Karen Kasler
In The Region:
A state agency took reporters to a place where few people have been – and even fewer will go in the future. Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler was one of those invited inside the new exotic animal facility in Reynoldsburg, near Columbus.
State opens exotic animals facility

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The exotic animals facility was custom built from the ground up –- there was no template or model to base it on. Ohio Department of Agriculture Director David Daniels says the building his agency ended up with is flexible in its design and secure in its operations. 

“This building is about 20,000 square feet. We have 30 large animal enclosures here. We have four primate enclosures. We have a room here that will house snakes and reptiles when that regulatory authority kicks in.”

The big animal cages are made of 6 gauge wire and have six padlocks each. A transport cage is locked into place against the cage with an opening to move the animal in. Heavy steel panels that separate the cages can be opened from outside, so an animal can be moved to an adjacent cage while its cage is cleaned and food and water is provided.

A cage must be closed and locked before another can be opened, and never is a caretaker and an animal inside a cage at the same time.

Keeping people out as well as animals in
Daniels says 17 cameras and motion sensors monitor the cages and take and send pictures to staff if there’s movement.

There are gated locked doors inside rooms, and in the main area are two exterior fences, the taller one 12 feet tall and electrified. But Daniels says all that security isn’t just for the animals. 

“While we’re worried about an animal getting out, we’re also worried about people getting in.” 

No animal will ever go outside while at the Reynoldsburg facility. But the facility is climate controlled and has warm and cooler areas in each of the bigger enclosures. And it has room to add more cages if necessary.

Planned obsolescence
But the thought is that the facility will only be needed for 10-15 years, because Ohio’s new exotic animals law bans new ownership of animals. Current owners can keep their animals, but not get new ones, and must meet state standards for containing them. Or, state veterinarian Tony Forshey says, the state can take them and bring them here. 

“This is not a zoo. It’s more like a humane society or a rescue-type facility and so it’s for the temporary housing. It’s our intent to bring these animals in, give them the best care, make sure they’re healthy.”

“This is a facility that we have to aid us in our regulatory responsibility over animals that are not permitted or are not cared for. When this is all said and done, I will not have access to this building. This will only be accessed to those who need to be back here.”

Daniels also says there will be no public announcements when animals arrive at the facility – only law enforcement will be notified. That’s to protect curious residents from trying to get inside to see them.

The legislature allotted $3.5 million to build the facility. Daniels says it’s not completely done, but the contract guaranteed the building would cost $2.9 million. Until there are animals in it, Daniels says it’s impossible to estimate the daily operations cost.

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