COLUMBUS (AP) — The state moved Wednesday to seize tigers and other animals from a northeast Ohio farm, saying it hasn’t met the requirements of a law cracking down on exotic animal ownership.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture had worked with Stump Hill Farm in Massillon on its efforts to get accredited by the Zoological Association of America but took action against the facility after those attempts stalled, spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said. Officials expected to find five tigers, two pumas, two baboons and one chimpanzee at the property, she said.
Reached by phone midday Wednesday, owner Cyndi Huntsman said she couldn’t confirm which animals the state was taking because authorities were still in the process of tranquilizing them and she wasn’t allowed on the property.
The farm promotes itself as a nonprofit education center and has dozens of other creatures not covered by the state law on dangerous wild animals. Huntsman argues that Stump Hill is exempt from the exotic animal requirements as an educational and rehabilitation facility.
She said she had refused to surrender the animals and anticipates there will be a hearing on the matter this week. She referred other questions to her attorney, who didn’t immediately respond to a message.
The state considered Stump Hill to be the last large facility not complying with the stricter rules Ohio enacted after a suicidal man released lions, tigers and other creatures from a Zanesville-area farm in 2011. Huntsman was part of a group of owners that had unsuccessfully challenged the law.
In the years since, more than 110 animals have been seized by the state or surrendered by owners. Some of those are still under litigation.
Huntsman previously surrendered six black bears, two brown bears and four alligators last year to decrease the number of animals at the farm as she pursued accreditation, Hawkins said.
Stump Hill had cared for at least one of the tigers used as a former live “Obie” mascot for football games at nearby Massillon Washington High School, but it was unclear whether the farm still had any former mascots, Hawkins said.