After Travis the Chimp mauled his owner’s friend in Stamford back in 2008, state lawmakers sought to ban the importation and possession of wild animals by ordinary residents not affiliated with zoos, circuses, research facilities, etc.
(And yes, that’s a younger Travis below. He was shot dead following the incident and his owner, Sandra Herold, in the sweater, passed away last May.)
The effort proved far more controversial than anticipated and the Travis legislation nearly died. The bill passed in June 2009 wound up focusing solely on large primates and left the really hard work up to the state Department of Enviromental Protection – coming up with a comprehensive list of other creatures great and small to ban/better regulate.
On January 11 the DEP, as required, advertised that the list and related regulations have been drafted, beginning a public comment period that will last until March 1.
A public hearing has also been scheduled for 6 p.m. on February 15 at the DEP’S headquarters in Hartford – the night before the second anniversary of Travis’ rampage.
For more details, including the quite lengthy lists of animals targeted by the proposal, visit this link.
And here’s our report from 2009 detailing the final passage of the legislation that resulted in the DEP’s proposal:
General Assembly passes ownership ban on great apes
By Brian Lockhart
HARTFORD — A watered-down ban on wild animals that targets only large primates is heading to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her signature.
“All they have done is really add three primates to the list of banned animals out of the many we had proposed,” Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, said after the vote.
Legislative proponents declared the wild animal ban dead earlier this week because of issues that arose over the bill, which had been proposed after February’s chimpanzee attack in Stamford.
“Obviously we’ve experienced a tragedy in Stamford that no one should have to go through,” state Rep. Gerald Fox, D-Stamford, said after the unanimous vote in the House. “If this legislation can help prevent anyone else from suffering, it’s a good piece of legislation.”
The bill includes a provision to allow the DEP to restrict the ownership of other exotic animals in the future as long as it holds public hearings on the issue.
A ban on wild and exotic animals was initially proposed after Travis, a chimpanzee that lived in Stamford for several years, mauled a family friend of its owner and subsequently was shot to death by police in February.
The state passed a law banning ownership of large cats, wolves and bears in 2004 and at the time instructed the DEP to establish a permitting program for other wild or exotic pets, including primates. But that effort never got off the ground.
And Travis, a local celebrity who lived in Stamford for years, was left alone by lawmakers and the DEP.
This session’s proposed ban, as initially envisioned by the DEP and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, cast a wide net. It made it illegal to own a variety of animals, from hippos to tarantulas, that were not already included on the state’s books.
But in recent weeks, the legislation became what is known in the General Assembly as a “Christmas tree,” loaded down with a variety of amendments.
Some lawmakers argued existing exotic pets owned by constituents should be grandfathered into the bill. They also said the bill did not explain what those owners should do with the creatures if the ban were passed and they were not allowed to keep their pets.
State Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, who pursued the grandfathering amendment, was concerned owners of pets deemed illegal would hide them, release them or kill them.
The ban also attracted other controversial amendments addressing animal-related concerns, including: preventing Commerford Farm in Goshen, known for housing elephants, from bringing new pachyderms into the state; banning leg-hold animal traps; and allowing bow hunting on Sundays.
“It got carried away,” House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, said Wednesday.
The bill passed Wednesday night added gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans to the 2004 list of prohibited animals in direct response to the Stamford incident.
“Although the policy on exotic pets is incomplete and should have been written to include other exotic animals who are capable of causing harm to people, it is important that a law was enacted to ban keeping great apes as pets,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “We look forward to working with the Department of Environmental Protection and state lawmakers to better align Connecticut law with those states that have more comprehensive policies.”
The bill also said that if the DEP wanted to expand the list, it must hold regular hearings associated with changes in state regulations to give the public a say.
“Many of us heard from constituents who had many sorts of animals that may or may not have been included,” state Rep. Clark Chapin, R-New Milford, a ranking Republican on the Environment Committee, told his colleagues before the vote. “Now DEP can take their time and do a more thoughtful vetting of those animals that should or shouldn’t be included.”
State Rep. Craig Miner, R-Litchfield, agreed.
Miner told the House two of his constituents have for years owned a pair of Burmese pythons, “none of whom have hurt anyone.” But he said that if the ban as proposed had passed, those snakes would have been outlawed.
Schain said the DEP was comfortable with the list it had suggested of banned animals.
“We were confident in the list we provided,” he said. “We consulted outside experts and it was a very appropriate list.”
State Rep. Richard Roy, D-Milford, co-chairman of the Environment Committee who had been working all session on a bill, admitted it had been turned into a “vanilla” piece of legislation but said he was satisfied with the compromise.
After “the public outcry after the incident in Stamford with Travis, we had to do something,” Roy said. “This is a very good start.”
Fearful that the bill might not be voted out of the state Senate in the final hours of the session, the state House as an incentive attached a proposal favored by state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, allowing a Christmas Village in his district to import reindeer for the holiday season.
Schain said the DEP was not happy about that decision and is concerned about imported reindeer passing disease along to the state’s native deer population.
“It spreads quickly,” Schain said. “We appreciate (the bill includes) safeguards for reindeer that are imported to be inspected and make sure they’re healthy. But we’re concerned any risk is too much.”