Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said he’s been working with animal groups and plans to propose legislation during the 2013 Legislature to prohibit most dangerous and wild animals from being kept in people’s backyards and basements.
“It has been clear for some time that it is a free-for-all in Nevada when it comes to owning dangerous exotic animals as pets,” Roberson said. “In order to protect the public, there needs to be strong oversight of these private owners who, in most cases, do not have the expertise needed to properly care for these animals in captivity.”
He added, “The most recent incident is a case in point that the average person is not properly equipped to own and care for these animals.”
That incident happened Thursday when two chimps escaped from their 800 square-foot compound in a neighborhood in unincorporated Clark County outside Las Vegas. Buddy, a male, was eventually shot and killed by a police officer after jumping atop cars and a police cruiser and veering toward a gathering crowd of onlookers.
C.J., a female, was tranquilized and returned to her enclosure.
The primates had become unmanageable for their former owner, who signed part ownership of the animals over to a nonprofit group called Cortland Brandenberg Foundation headed by Timmi De Rosa. De Rosa is the girlfriend of poker pro Lee Watkinson who put up $100,000 to build the double-fenced enclosure.
The escape is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. On Monday, the animal rights group People for the Protection of Animals called on the USDA to revoke the license held by the co-owners of the chimps and confiscate the surviving primate, CJ.
The Humane Society of the United States said Nevada is one of six states with no restrictions on private ownership of wild animals. Instead, oversight is left largely to local governments through county and municipal codes.
In Clark County, someone wanting an exotic animal needs to obtain a special use permit from the county planning commission. Clark County officials note a permit was issued for the residence where the chimps were kept.
State law and regulations prohibit importation, transportation or possession of some species, including aquatic inhabitants such as piranhas and northern Pike that could invade Nevada waterways and overtake native species. Other banned animals include alligators, crocodiles, wild pigs, wildebeest, as well as familiar critters such as coyotes, moose, foxes, raccoons and skunks.
On the flip side, state regulations allow the keeping of primates, bison, camels, marsupials, yak, zebra, even elephants, without a permit or license from the Nevada Department of Wildlife — the same as with gerbils, guinea pigs and canaries.
But state wildlife officials note the larger animals would be subject to federal government and local government restrictions.