Learning About Animals in W.Va.

There is no better way for young people to learn about nature than to be exposed to it – to learn, for example, that a rattlesnake’s warning sounds nothing like the television sound-effect or that some other snakes mimic the rattle by vibrating their tails in dry leaves.

Each year, thousands of West Virginia children – and adults – enjoy such educational opportunities. They occur when owners of reptiles, birds and other animals take them to schools, fairs, camps and other places where they can be seen and sometimes touched.

That may come to an end because of a bill approved by the West Virginia Legislature, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act. It is on Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s desk, awaiting his signature or veto.

West Virginia needs some controls on those who keep wild animals, both for the creatures’ sake and to safeguard the public.

But critics of the proposed new law say it is too harsh, that it could mean the end of many programs to allow people to see and touch certain animals.

That would be a shame.

Tomblin should review the bill carefully. If it is unnecessarily restrictive, he should veto it and ask legislators to try again with more realistic rules.