By Maggie Thurber l Special to Ohio Watchdog
In a conversation with reporters Wednesday, House Speaker William Batchelder admitted to being caught off guard by the costs of Ohio‘s revised exotic animals law.
In a move to “do something” after a troubled man released his collection of exotic animals and then committed suicide, the General Assembly revised its law requiring permits, fees and inspections for anyone housing any defined exotic animal. The new law also called for animals to be confiscated under certain conditions.
Apparently, lawmakers, including Batchelder, R-Medina, failed to realize that taking possession of such animals would result in the need to house and feed them until such time that they could be returned to the owners or otherwise transferred out of the control of the state.
It’s going to cost $3.5 million to build a facility to house the animals — and around $500,000 a year to maintain it — whether any animals are actually there.
Batchelder said he never imagined the bill would entail the construction of a permanent structure to house the confiscated animals.
What, exactly, did he think the state was going to do with them when it took them? And why didn’t he ask at the time the bill was debated?
This happens way too often: Politicians act without consideration of the long-term consequences — and costs — of what they vote to do, and then are surprised when they find out.
Batchelder admits as much, telling reporters, “…I’m not really sure what this means in the long term. I guess we’re counting on this thing going on and on.”
“I’m just not sure what we’ve gotten ourselves into,” he said. “We’re going to be taking a look at this.”
To his credit, Batchelder said other options may be available, like using animal sanctuaries around the country, and he expects members of the House Finance and Appropriation Committee to look into the matter.
With the Controlling Board having approved a $3.5 million, no-bid contract to construct the facility, that can’t happen soon enough.
While you wouldn’t expect such lack of comprehension from someone with Batchelder’s length of time in public office, hopefully this is a lesson learned. Ohio taxpayers deserve no less.