Fred Langille said the memory of what happened to his daughter years ago at a shopping plaza in Huntington, WV is still fresh in his mind. Lani Langille was in the 8th grade when she was bit by a privately owned pet Capuchin monkey in the mall parking lot. This week she will graduate from college.
"A couple had a pet monkey and we went over to see it," Fred Langille said. "It bit her twice."
Langille said Lani was injured in the knee and almost lost a finger. He said the state's effort to ban dangerous animals is long overdue. He is now an advocate for restrictions relating to exotic pets.
West Virginia's Wild and Dangerous Animal Board is made up 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. They have drafted a list of animals that should be restricted.
Since the public comment period started in July of 2014, over 300 people have submitted written statements.
Some are hoping their family pets will be safe.
"It would be like someone taking your dog or cat away," said pet lover Jessica Johnson, when talking about her family's rabbit. "My little girl holds it like a baby and pats it on it's back."
Many people in the pet store industry are concerned about several of the restrictions including several fish and snails. Pet store owners said in a recent meeting of the Wild and Dangerous Animal Board, the restrictions will put them out of business. Many popular household fish tank pets are on the banned list. People have also been alarmed by seeing horses, cows, pigs and other common animals on the restricted list, saying it is too general and rules out many animals it shouldn't.
West Virginia Department of Agriculture Chief of Staff Chris Ferro said "traditional" livestock animals will be exempt. He said if pet owners have a question about their particular animals they should email or send a letter as part of the public comment record. The public comment period ends August 1. After that the list will be sent to the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office. The list won't be finalized until the West Virginia Legislature votes during the 2015 regular session.
Ferro said the goal is to phase out exotic breeds. People who already own animals on the list will have to pay an annual $100 fee to register them. They'll also have to provide proof that they are meeting the proper caging requirements. When the animal dies the pet owner will not be allowed to buy a replacement. Ferro said the money collected from the fee will be used for administrative costs. He said local police departments, county sheriff's departments and the West Virginia State Police will be primarily responsible for enforcement.
If you would like to submit a written statement about the list you can email the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can mail a letter to:
West Virginia Department of Agriculture
Attn: Jodee Martin
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, East
Charleston, WV 25305