A leading lawmaker in the Nevada Senate said he's throwing his support behind legislation that would address the private ownership of wild animals in the state.
State Sen. Mark Menendo, D-Las Vegas, said Wednesday the recent escape of two chimpanzees in a residential neighborhood has placed a spotlight on this unregulated subject.
"Exotic animals should not be kept as pets. These animals pose public safety and health risks to their possessors and to the community at large," Manendo said in a statement. "By their very nature, these animals are wild and inherently dangerous and do not adjust well to a captive environment."
Manendo, who is the chairman of the Nevada Senate Natural Resources Committee, said he will work with colleague Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, on garnering bipartisan support for the legislation.
Earlier this week, Roberson said he has been working with the Humane Society of the United States to work on a law that would ban people from keeping wild animals in backyards and basements.
"It has been clear for sometime that it is a free-for-all in Nevada when it comes to owning dangerous exotic animals as pets," Roberson said. "In order to protect the public, there needs to be strong oversight of these private owners who, in most cases, do not have the expertise needed to properly care for these animals in captivity."
Nevada is one of six states that lack a law on the private ownership of wild animals, including chimpanzees, large felines, bears, wolves and venomous snakes.
"We have had some discussion in past sessions about our lack of good laws governing the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets but have never resolved the matter," said Manendo. "This incident tragically illustrates why we can no longer wait to provide greater oversight."
The July 12 escape of the two chimps in the area of Ann Road and Jones Boulevard left one of them dead after a Metro police officer shot him. The other was tranquilized and returned to her owners.
The chimps' owners were granted permits by Clark County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to keep the animals at their home.
Copyright 2012 KVVU (KVVU Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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