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Nevada state senator looking to launch wild animal ban

By Justine Espersen

A Nevada state senator has announced Monday the critical need for a state law to define the private ownership of wild animals, four days after the recent escape of two chimpanzees in northwest Las Vegas.

Senator Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said in a press release Thurs. that he has been working with the Humane Society of the United States to draft a bill in the 2013 legislative session. He hopes to create a law that will ban people from keeping wild animals in their homes. The session is planned to begin Feb. 4.

Nevada is only one of six states that do not have a law against the private ownership of wild animals.

“It has been clear for sometime that it is a free-for-all in Nevada when it comes to owning dangerous exotic animals as pets,” Roberson said. “In order to protect the public, there needs to be strong oversight of these private owners who, in most cases, do not have the expertise needed to properly care for these animals in captivity.”

The chimpanzees that escaped last week had been kept in a cage at their residence for a number of years. Clark County and the U.S. Department of Agriculture had granted the owners permits to reside at their house.

CJ, a female chimpanzee, was tranquilized during their escape and has now been returned, while Buddy, a male chimp, was killed after being shot by a metro sergeant during their July 12 escape.

Safety is the underlying factor to the proposed legislation said Roberson.

“These animals can cause death, inflict serious injury, and spread deadly diseases. It is, if not impossible, for individuals to meet the animals’ specialized needs in captivity,” Roberson said. “The most recent incident is a case in point that the average person is not properly equipped to own and care for these animals.”

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there are 14 properties within Clark County allowed to keep exotic animals.