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06/23/2024 12:55 AM
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: June 5, 2023 10:14 AM
From: Representative Joseph C. Hohenstein
To: All House members
Subject: Protecting the Public from Contact with Wild Animals
In 2017, a kangaroo at an Alabama zoo attacked a nine-year-old girl, grabbing her hair and ripping at her ear. In March 2023, a teenager had to receive rabies treatments after a sloth quickly bit her during a public contact experience. In another case, in 2021, an elephant being used for rides injured an Oklahoma resident during an “elephant experience” and caused “serious and life-threatening injuries” and disfigurement. Such incidents reveal the dangers of allowing public contact with wild animals. Bites and scratches inflicted by wildlife cause physical harm and can lead to infections and diseases. In addition, many animals located in roadside attractions face inhumane practices such as being prematurely separated from their mothers as infants, over-breeding, and forced human contact. As such, we need to do more to safeguard both animals and humans alike.
For over 35 years, the Commonwealth’s regulations promoted conservation, protected public safety, and promoted animal health by prohibiting, with limited exceptions, contact with wildlife and exotic wildlife. Unfortunately, those regulations were overturned earlier this year.
To remedy this issue, I plan to introduce legislation that would prevent the public from feeding or having direct physical contact with exotic wildlife without a sufficient separating barrier. However, certain non-exotic species would be exempted from this restriction.
Wild animals are not pets; their intrinsic instincts are exactly that—wild—which makes them unpredictable. Close human contact with wild animals can and does cause harm to both animals and people interacting with them—in addition to bites and scratches, wild animals can spread viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections that pose serious health risks to people.
This legislation will ensure that the public is protected from injury or illness caused by physical contact with wild exotic animals while promoting safety within roadside zoos and other wild animal exhibitions.
Please join me in fostering better, safer interactions between the public and wildlife. Your consideration is greatly appreciated.

Introduced as HB1451