Exotic pets in Tri-State backyards, Amy Wagner investigates

FOX19 Investigates: Exotic pets in Tri-State backyards

(FOX19) -

In Washington Township, most folks know if they have an animal they can no longer care for, Teresa Bullock will always take it in.   

"I call this misfit land and they just kind of come here. That one's owner died last year," said Teresa Bullock, pointing to one of her many pets.

Bullock has dogs, cats, pigs and even two java macaques. The female is Angel; the male, Bugs, runs the show.

"He's pretty content, got his pet cats, his own trampoline, got a tv, they go in and out of the heated area," said Bullock. 

Java Macaques are considered exotic animals. A Google search of the breed turns up dozens of stories and adorable images of the animals interacting peacefully with their owners. It also turns up stories of the animals attacking humans, most often the males, known to be more aggressive and to have inch-long canine teeth.

FOX19's Amy Wagner asked Bullock, "Have you been bitten?" 

"I've had them, yeah, not attacked, but I'd be lying if I said anything else," replied Bullock.

And after an incident in Zanesville, Ohio in 2011, when a man released 50 of his exotic pets, including black bears, mountain lions and bengal tigers, then killed himself, the state of Ohio is cracking down on exotic pet owners. 

It's an effort Thane Maynard, the Director of the Cincinnati Zoo, calls a step in the right direction. 

"It is, in fact, risky for private citizens to have great big dangerous animals on private property they probably are better at a zoo than in your own farm or backyard," Maynard said. 

Starting in 2014, Ohioans who own exotic animals must obtain a new state-issued wildlife shelter permit. And in late 2012, the stare required all exotic pets to be registered. 

"They are very much common sense.  Not at all restrictive," Maynard said. 

For the first time, we're seeing exactly where these exotic, sometimes dangerous animals are living. In Hamilton County, there are four exotic animals registered. In Clermont County, there are 15. In Warren County there aren't any exotic pets. And in Butler County, there are 27.

Among them, a black bear is registered at a home on this property in Middletown. An African serval cat is registered to a home in Bethel. The species is illegal to own in a number of states and not recommended in homes with small children. There are also about 25 alligators living in Tri-State homes. 

Three of them used to live in Brian Gill's College Hill home.

"Because of the new laws, I decided not to keep them," Gill said.  Gill says he kept the alligators in a large pool in his basement. Wagner asked him, "What's the biggest one you had?"

"Biggest one was about five and a half, close to six feet. Big boy," replied Gill. "It was awesome." 

Gill still keeps pythons, tarantulas and hissing cockroaches in his basement, using them for his animal education business, "Cool Critters." He admits, some of them have gotten loose from time to time. 

"Every reptile owner will tell you, especially if they have snakes, something will get loose every once in awhile. Have had a snake get loose here and there," Gill said. "You usually find them in a week or so."

Exotic pet owners are a different kind of pet owner, with a different kind of pet.  And they may be living closer to you than you ever imagined. About her java macaques, Bullock says, "If I had known then what I know now, then I wouldn't have gotten into it.  But they're like family.  There's no going back."

For a complete list of exotic pets living in Hamilton, Clermont and Butler Counties, click here. 

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