My Town Monday: Wild Animals in Ohio (legally)

Ohio was all over the national news last week, when a man in Zanesville released 56 exotic animals that he owned, then killed himself, leaving the animals to run amok and possibly hurt, or even kill someone. The debacle had an unfortunate end in that law enforcement had to kill 50 of the animals to ensure public safety. One of the questions raised was, why was this man able to keep these animals when he’d been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005?

Which raises another question: What happens to exotic animals when they’re removed from a bad situation like this?

A white tiger at the Heaven's Corner Zoo

One place they might go is Heaven’s Corner, a wild animal sanctuary located in West Alexandria, just a few miles west of Dayton.

Heaven’s Corner is a privately-owned, nonprofit, USDA-licensed zoo that houses over 150 wild and exotic mammals, reptiles, and birds. The organization’s primary purpose is rescue. Most of these animals were pets whose owners were unable to care for them  and either released them, or called for help (that little cub isn’t so cute when it grows up to be a tiger or bear that could rip a person apart!). These animals are often brought in by law enforcement or other state or local authorities. Sometimes, animals are dropped off at the sanctuary. Others came to Heaven’s Corner from other zoos that closed (usually due to lack of funding). These are animals that can’t be returned to their natural habitat for any of many reasons, and the staff of Heaven’s Corner strive to provide each animal with a safe, species-appropriate home where it’s properly cared for.

This Macaw also calls Heaven's Corner home

The other part of Heaven’s Corner’s mission is education. It’s open to the public, and often hosts school groups. I visited several years ago (time to go back!), and was fascinated to hear the stories behind many of the animals, which include several species of tigers, leopards, bears, tropical birds, snakes, and even crocodiles. It’s well worth a visit, and all admission fees go directly toward the care and feeding of the animals. They also accept donations via their website. They also have an active Facebook Page you can Like.

Last week’s unfortunate incident will undoubtedly result in new legislation limiting ownership of wild and exotic animals in Ohio. When new laws take effect, there will likely be plenty of owners who will surrender newly-illegal animals. When they do, Heaven’s Corner will be ready to help these animals find a new home – or provide them with one.

If you live in the area, have you ever been to Heaven’s Corner? If not, do you have an organization like this in your area? Does your state have animal incidents?

More at the My Town Monday blog