Restrict Ownership Of Wild Animals

If you want to keep a pet gray squirrel in West Virginia, fine. But if your goal is to show off a snow leopard, think again.

That seems to be the intent of a bill introduced in the state Senate this week. It would ban most breeding and possession of animals not native to the Mountain State. Current owners of such animals would have to obtain permits from the Division of Natural Resources.

Introduced in reaction to the tragedy a few months ago near Zanesville, when dozens of wild animals including lions and tigers were released by a man who then committed suicide, the bill is a good idea for several reasons.

Of course, lessening the risk that dangerous animals will put the public’s safety at risk is one justification. Another is the possibility of non-native species taking over West Virginia habitats, similar to what is happening in the Florida Everglades with imported boa constrictors and other large snakes.

Legislators should pass the bill for the good of animals as well as the people of West Virginia.