A guy walked into Richmond Animal Care and Control asking about a permit for a black panther, a few months back, according to Supervisor Rob Leinberger.
“Just when you thought you heard it all…” said the 25-year animal control officer, of the man’s inquiry.
During Leinberger’s tenure in the Richmond area, and he’s had quite a few encounters with “unexpected” animals. NBC12 has reported on chimps, lions and venomous snakes, all kept as pets, throughout RVA. Leinberger even once responded to a man bitten by his own poisonous albino cobra.
“It was a huge safety risk for the first responders who had to go (retrieve the snake). We had to evacuate the apartment building,” remembered Leinberger. Medics had to fly in anti-venom from Florida to treat the man, who was hospitalized for a week.
In another situation, police discovered a monkey wandering around a woman’s home after she had passed. Richmond Animal Control contained the animal in one of their offices until they found a sanctuary for it.
Oddly enough, in Richmond city, it’s actually legal to keep an exotic animal, for now.
“Tiger, lynx, bobcat, a cobra…” listed Leinberger, not to give anyone ideas.
Leinberger says as long as you have federal and state permits, you can technically invite a range of animals into your domain, even if you live downtown. Leinberger says often the exotic animals not given permits, are the endangered ones.
A new ordinance making its way through city hall would change Richmond’s code, banning all wild animals from within city limits. Certain exotic animals, like non-poisonous snakes you’d get from a pet shop, are still allowed. Ferrets and rabbits would also be allowed.
If you already own an exotic pet, you may be grandfathered in, unless the animal is deemed unsafe.
“That’s probably going to be a case by case basis, making sure that these animals are properly contained… that they’re not going to be a threat or a safety issue for the public,” Leinberger continued.
Either way, exotic pet owners will have to register with RACC, so officers are at least aware of what creatures are being kept in homes.
The law would also ban wild animals typically native to Virginia, like raccoons and foxes. The ordinance still has to be passed by City Council before anything is enacted.
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