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Texas Rep. Harvey Hilderbran of Kerrville has filed legislation aimed at elevating public safety and protecting animal health by strengthening the insurance and record-keeping requirements for privately-owned dangerous wildlife such as lions and gorillas.

The bill would increase the amount of insurance required on dangerous animals to ensure their owners would be able to cover any property damage or bodily harm the animal may cause. The bill also prohibits owners from housing dangerous animals within five miles of a school, daycare, or church, and it requires them to provide at least two acres of property per registered animal.

While owners of dangerous animals are already required to file a permit application with their local animal control agency or sheriff’s office, Hilderbran’s bill would increase the information applicants must provide in their permit request.

The current application asks for information regarding an animal’s species, sex, age, distinct color markings, and other identifying information. Hilderbran’s bill would require owners to also include information on prior ownership and conditions of sale.

“Identifying the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of these animals helps us verify that the previous owner had a legal right to possess the animal and that it is not being sold through the black market,” Hilderbran said.

The representative said he will also add language to the bill to elevate inspection frequency and standards for rescue centers housing dangerous wildlife and to prohibit these centers from advertising themselves as both rescue and hunting facilities.

Hilderbran added that his legislation has nothing to do with hoofed animals and that it would not alter the list of dangerous animals as listed within the Texas Health and Safety Code. That list includes lions, tigers, ocelots, cougars, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, bobcats, lynx, servals, caracals, hyenas, bears, coyotes, jackals, baboons, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas.

Further, the bill applies only to private animal owners and does not affect zoos, aquariums, or research facilities.

Posted 5:02 PM

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