Search This Blog

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Saying "No" to Nosey's Law

Last year, a Florida couple - Hugo and Franciszka Liebel - were arrested in Alabama and charged with animal cruelty.  As is often the case in these situations, the animal in question was confiscated and placed in temporary care while the case is being resolved.  What's not usual?  The animal is an African elephant, named Nosey.

Private ownership of large exotic animals - those not in zoos - tends to fly under the radar throughout much of the country.  Most Americans are entirely unaware that there are more tigers living as pets than in zoos.  Whenever private ownership does bubble up to the surface of the news, however, it's seldom in a good way - and there tend to be legal repercussions.  Ohio once had some of the loosest exotic animal ownership laws in the country.  Then came the Zanesville Incident, with big cats and bears running amok through the woods.  Now... not so much.

And so, when Nosey's story broke the news, it wasn't surprising that at least some states would stop to re-examine their own exotic animal laws.  Among those was New Jersey, which was set to pass what became known as "Nosey's Law", officially S2508, which would outlaw the use of animals in traveling acts.  Sounds good, right?

Just to be clear, this is not Nosey. It is an African elephant female that is used for elephant rides at the Natural Bridge Zoo in Natural Bridge, Virginia - though to the best of my knowledge, one that does not leave zoo grounds for traveling exhibitions

The problem with laws like these is that they are seldom written or thought out by people who actually know the issues at hands.  A strict reading of Nosey's Law would have banned not only circus elephants, but any kind of traveling exhibition of animals, which could have outlawed nature outreach programs, including possibly even zoo education departments taking their animals to schools and other settings.

Thankfully, we have Chris Christie (I honestly never thought I would type that sentence) who, to the surprise of many, vetoed the bill.  Now, Christie did so as one of his last acts as governor of New Jersey, but lawmakers are pledging to tighten up the bill, making its language more in line with their original intent (and clearly exempting zoos and aquariums) before they send it to the new governor.  Still, that was a close one.

This goes to show that it is extremely important for zoos and aquariums to keep up on upcoming legislation, lest things become passed into law which could inadvertently harm their programs or collections.  Even the best intentions can make for bad laws when implemented by well-meaning but misinformed people - and it's a heck of a lot easier to stop a law from being passed than to change it or repeal it after the fact.

No comments:

Post a Comment