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Dangerous Wild Animal Board holds meeting

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Dangerous Wild Animal Board meeting June 19 Dangerous Wild Animal Board meeting June 19
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The Dangerous Wild Animal Board held a meeting at the offices of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture June 19, its first since an initial draft of the list of potentially dangerous animals had been published.

Board members repeatedly stressed that the list is far from finalized.

Several citizens attended the meeting, many of them owners or affiliates of West Virginia pet stores. They voiced their concerns during an open floor session, and were made aware that only written public comments are formally accepted.

"The list is a work in progress, a living document," said Jewell Plumley, the state's veterinarian and chair of the board. "We welcome as much public comment as possible. We will take everything into consideration." 

Board members are made of representatives of three state offices – the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, the WV Division of Natural Resources and the WV Department of Agriculture.

"All three of us want to fulfill the intent of the legislature," said Paul Johansen, who represented the DNR. "There's a long way to go, but we're up to the task. The important part for everyone is realize is that this is a transparent process."

Chris Ferro represented the WV Department of Agriculture.

"The legislature formed a committee in response of a case in Ohio where wild animals escaped about 2-3 years ago," Ferro explained. "The concern was that there was no list or register of the animals that people were keeping on private property. West Virginia is one of the last few states to adopt legislation like this and to create a list of prohibited animals. It’s a public safety initiative." 

Some attendees expressed concerns about animals commonly found in pet stores, such as exotic fish and snails.

"The committee tasked a subcommittee to take a wide view of this and narrow the list," Ferro said. "The committee is open to changing the list.

There will be other meeting of this board to consider public comments and then there will be the legislative review. That will be an additional opportunity for public comment and changes to be made to the list.

"The wide angle view included some animals that you may not think of as inherently dangerous. But there are some that may carry salmonella, so the subcommittee took that public safety view." 

The board is expected to open up the 30-day public comment period on July 2.

Written comments can be submitted by email or a handwritten letter.

Information for filing comments will be found at websites of all three state agencies: the WV Department of Health and Human Resources, the WV Division of Natural Resources and the WV Department of Agriculture.

The board is scheduled to meet again July 17.