Ohio pair want to keep pet bear; state says they lack permit


First Posted: 1/24/2015

LODI (AP) — A northeast Ohio couple accused of not having a permit for their longtime pet bear say they weren’t properly notified of a 2012 change in the law and don’t want to turn over the animal to the state as requested.

Jeff Gillium of Lodi has had the male bear, named Archie, for more than three decades and had permits until 2013, WKYC-TV (http://on.wkyc.com/15Dw4kG) reported.

“I think that he should be allowed to finish out his life here, his years here,” said Gillium’s wife, Debbie. “I think that’s the fair thing. We are not using him for profit. He’s never harmed anybody in all these years.”

Ohio tightened regulations on ownership of dangerous wild animals after a suicidal owner released dozens of creatures from a farm in Zanesville in 2011. The law gave owners a chance to obtain permits to keep their animals, but Gillium didn’t do so, Ohio Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said.

Gillium and his wife say they went to renew their permits and were told it wasn’t necessary. Now, the window has passed. A recent letter from the department said they must provide a permit, move the bear out of Ohio or surrender him to be tranquilized and relocated by the state.

The department will look into whether the Gilliums were notified of the updated requirements.

Considering the options presented by the state, Jeff Gillium said he worries that at nearly 40 years old, the bear might not survive being tranquilized.

Hawkins said the state would create a plan for the bear if the owners agree to surrender it.

“The department’s animal health veterinarians will work to identify an appropriate, permanent home for the animal and will use their professional judgment to develop a plan for the safe movement of the animal,” she said.

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