AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) – Owning, buying or selling exotic pets will be outlawed in the Palmetto State next year.
Some of those wild animals include lions, tigers, bears, jaguars, chimpanzees and gorillas.
People who already own a wild cat, a bear or an ape can keep it, but they have to register the animal with the county and keep up with its veterinary records.
The founder of a local cat sanctuary tells WJBF NewsChannel 6 the bill is a great move to prevent wild animals from getting put into unfit living conditions.
Some of the felines, at Avalo Cat Sanctuary, are direct descendants of exotic jungle cats.
The early generation domesticated breeds have traits and characteristics of their larger counterparts, such as Leopards, Ocelots and Servals.
Wild cats that South Carolinian’s won’t be legally allowed to own, buy or sell come 2018.
“They are doing the best thing for the general public and the cats,” Avalo Cat Sanctuary Michelle Donlick said. “It’s not right for big cats to be in small areas in captivity.”
Donlick takes in these abandoned or neglected felines. While she said her exotic and hybrid cats don’t make the list, she’s confident the new bill will keep other wild species from falling into the unfit homes and at the same time preventing a tragedy.
“When you’re dealing with a wild animal you have much less control of it and that’s where there needs to be control by the person, place or establishment who owns the cat and there should be safety provisions. I definitely agree.” Donlick told WJBF NewsChannel 6.
Aiken County Code Enforcement Officer Paige Bayne says it’s pretty rare to get calls about escaped exotic animals, but it’s not uncommon.
“We have had a call, that came in over the weekend. It was down in on Jefferson Davis Highway in Graniteville and it was a large lizard on the side of the road. It turned out to be an iguana.” Bayne told WJBF NewsChannel 6.
However, since Code Enforcement officers aren’t trained to handle wild animals Bayne says they work with rescues in the area.
“We deal mainly with domesticated animals,”said Bayne. “If you don’t have that experience it they can be dangerous.”
In 25 years, there’s only been 10 recorded cases of these animals escaping and injuring people.
The bill goes into effect in January of 2018.
If you would like to donate to the Avalo Cat Sanctuary nonprofit please click here.