Call Comes after Exotic Animals Escape Ohio Farm

Indiana Needs Tougher Exotic Animal Laws

By Jeff Neumeyer

October 19, 2011 Updated Oct 19, 2011 at 10:00 PM EDT

ALBION, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The director of a popular animal sanctuary in Noble County tells Indiana's NewsCenter that Indiana legislators need to enact tougher laws regarding private ownership of exotic animals.

The comments for tougher laws come in the wake of the incident in Zanesville Ohio, where close to 50 wild animals were intentionally released by the owner of an animal preserve.

Police say the man let tigers, bears, monkeys and a mountain lion out of their cages, and then committed suicide.

Lori Gagen with Black Pine Animal Sanctuary near Albion contends that her operation takes a number of steps to guard against animals escaping, but that the law does not do an adequate job of holding others accountable for keeping the public safe.

85 animals live in the Noble County sanctuary, including five Bengal Tigers.

Gagen says her operation has detailed emergency response plans specific to each animal.

Those plans lay out what to do in case an animal gets out of its fenced-in surroundings.

She says under Indiana law, owners of animals not native to this area can, in some instances, write down that they own a .12 gauge shotgun, and that's considered a sufficient plan in case of escape.

A network news report broadcast Wednesday on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams pinpointed Indiana as being one of only a dozen states, including Ohio, where exotic animal laws are virtually non-existent.

Black Pine's Gagen says it's possible some of the animals rescued in the Zanesville incident could find their way to her sanctuary.

Lori Gagen/Black Pine Executive Director: " Black Pine's mission is to provide refuge to exactly the kinds of animals that are being displaced today, if any of them do survive, and if it's a good fit for our abilities here, absolutely, and we have already reached out to the people that are working this case."

Gagen says of all the wild animals let loose, Chimpanzees and Orangutans are a bigger threat to public safety than even lions and tigers.

She says the primates are not only powerful, but have a violent streak.

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