Bill to prohibit dangerous exotic animals would direct decision to counties

CARSON CITY — A bill proposing to prohibit new private ownership of exotic and potentially dangerous animals was substantially altered by a legislative committee on Thursday to instead direct county officials to consider whether to regulate the practice.

Senate Bill 245 was introduced by Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who argued at an earlier hearing that the bill was a public safety issue. He expressed concern that someone eventually could be killed by a privately owned tiger or other dangerous animal.

But the Senate Committee on Natural Resources instead removed all but one section of the bill and added a legislative directive that states the ownership of exotic pets among individuals is a public policy matter that needs to be addressed, and that counties have the authority to adopt local ordinances regulating such activity.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, opposed the bill, which was advanced by the committee. He said the legislation is not necessary because counties already have the ability to regulate such ownership.

But Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he supported the amended version of the bill to clarify that all 17 counties can regulate exotic animal ownership.

The issue got the public’s attention in July when two chimpanzees, Buddy and C.J., escaped from an enclosure in a northwest Las Vegas Valley neighborhood. Buddy was killed by police when he “aggressively approached” onlookers during the escape.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.