Wild animal ban on hold in Connecticut

May 30, 2009 12:07:12 PM PDT
The Connecticut General Assembly won't take up a bill this session banning a long list of wild and potentially dangerous animals as pets. The legislation stems from the February attack on a Stamford resident mauled by a 200-pound chimpanzee.

Rep. Richard Roy, co-chairman of the legislature's Environment Committee, told the Connecticut Post on Friday that the bill is being abandoned because some lawmakers want to protect a family-owned elephant farm in Goshen.

Many state politicians were outraged that potentially dangerous animals were allowed as pets after learning of the chimpanzee attack on Charla Nash, who lost her hands, nose, lips and eyelids in the assault.

But Roy said Goshen-area lawmakers fought the bill.

"It's dead because there's a piece that was put into the bill that would have not allowed the Commerford family to bring in any new elephants in the years ahead, thereby, essentially closing the business down," he said.

The farm has several elephants, a petting zoo and a variety of exotic animals, including zebras and camels. Commerford brings the animals to fairs and malls along the East Coast.

"The Commerford Farm is a community fixture up in Goshen and it would be sad to see that business have to terminate what it does as it moves into the future," said Rep. Roberta Willis, D-Lakeville.

Even though the legislative session ends on Wednesday, Roy said it won't be brought up because the debate will take up too much time.

Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, was surprised by the bill's demise. The legislation has been supported by the Attorney General and the Department of Environmental Protection - which is hosting an exotic animal amnesty day in July to persuade residents to turn in their illegal and legal exotic pets.

"The legislation is extraordinarily important and I understand that there were concerns expressed by some legislators, but there's certainly no excuse for not coming up with a reasonable compromise that would assure the safety of the people of our state," McDonald said.

Besides the Commerford dispute, the legislation also faced challenges from lawmakers who wanted to propose various amendments, such as grandfathering existing exotic animals to legalizing bow hunting on Sundays.


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