Bill would ban private ownership of exotic animals

A bill, proposed by Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, would prohibit private possession, sale and propagation of a number of exotic animals.

Wanggaard said the measure had been in drafting before a lion was spotted in the Milwaukee area, but he said he introduced it because of the issues it has caused in the city.

“Because of what’s happened in Milwaukee and the attention that’s been drawn to us with this issue, we thought this was a good time to get this bill out and into the public arena so people have an understanding as to the dangers of exotic animals,” Wanggaard said.


Residents in the Milwaukee area have been reporting sightings of a big cat for 10 days, sparking a major effort in the city to catch it.

The bill would ban the ownership of lions, tigers, polar bears, brown bears, gorillas, chimpanzees, alligators and crocodiles. People currently owning those types of animals legally with a license could keep them until the animals die but would be required to register with local law enforcement the location of the animals in case of emergencies.

“It would be really difficult to expect all those individuals who are law-abiding to this point that haven’t had issues that do provide the right environment and are very loving parents of this animal — why would we take that away if they haven’t had an issue?” Wanggaard said.

The bill would not affect zoos, veterinarians, circuses and other regulated animal sanctuaries in the state.

Jill Carnegie, owner of Valley of the Kings animal sanctuary, in Walworth County, said the bill is a good idea.

“It’s sad that you have to pass a law for that,” Carnegie said. “I would like to see a law passed where there’s huge fines. Hit them in the pocket, hit them where it hurts and put these animals in reputable sanctuaries where they can live out their days.”

Carnegie takes animals that are seized or rescued and has a large farm where she keeps them in Sharon. She and her husband are on-call with authorities in Milwaukee to come pick up the large cat whenever it is found.