COLUMBUS -- So far, state agriculture officials are aware of the locations of one privately owned puma and one privately owned serval, a type of African wild cat.
Otherwise, a month or so into the process, no owners of such dangerous, wild animals have stepped up to register with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, a requirement if they want to keep their "pets."
"We are aware that there are many more than two animals in the state," said Erica Hawkins, ODA spokesman. "I don't know if folks really understand that if they have the intention of keeping their animals past Jan. 1, 2014, this [is required]."
She added, "It's possible they're just trying to cross the T's and dot the I's."
And if not, agriculture officials are already preparing Door No. 2, a $3.5 million new facility with prison-grade security fencing and ample cage space for the bears, hippos, gorillas, tigers and other exotics that they expect to confiscate from unregistered private owners. Initial work already is under way at the acre site on the edge of suburban Columbus, with plans for completing the building before the end of the year.
Earlier this year, lawmakers passed and Gov. John Kasich signed into law legislation limiting the private ownership of dangerous wild animals.
The new law came months after an incident in Zanesville in which the suicidal owner of dozens of tigers, bears and lions loosed his animals and killed himself.
Deputies were forced to kill most of the animals to avoid their escape into the surrounding community, and the aftermath drew international attention to Ohio and it's lack of policies on the private ownership of exotics.
The new law, which took effect in early September, categorizes bears, tigers, lions, elephants, Komodo dragons, crocodiles and other species as "dangerous wild animals." Existing owners in both categories are banned from acquiring new animals, though they can keep existing ones as long as they register with the state, implant microchips, meet care standards and obtain proper permits.
The new law also categorizes a variety of anacondas, pythons and other restricted snakes, with owners required to obtain possession and propagation permits.
Anyone not holding the proper permits or meeting state requirements will be banned from having dangerous wild animals as of 2014.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture is overseeing the permitting and will be charged with confiscating animals held illegally. Registration forms are now available online (www.agri.ohio.gov).
During hearings on the law change, many owners made it clear that they would be forced to move out of state or keep their animals without registering.
"This bill could force a good portion of the exotic animal business to go underground," Rep. Terry Boose, a Republican from Newark who voted against the bill, said during deliberations earlier this year.
But it's way too early to draw any conclusions about the lack of registration submissions to date. It likely is taking some owners time to meet all of the requirements in state law to keep their animals legally.
The owners of that one puma and one serval can cuddle their dangerous, wild animals with assurance they've met the state registration requirement.
The rest of you better get a move on before the state opens its confiscated animal facility for business.
(Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.)