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Running Wild: Oklahoma lacks exotic animal laws

Oklahoma has few laws that govern the private ownership of exotic animals. 

At least two private zoos are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

Brianna Bailey visited one zoo and combed records for a dispatch:  

Virtually no state laws regulate the ownership of exotic animals in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation only has authority over animals that are native to the state, said Bill Hale, the department's chief of law enforcement.

While the department enforces a ban on exotic venomous snakes in the state, animals like lions, tigers and elephants fall outside of the agency's purview, Hale said.

Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman
Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

"It would be like giving the highways to Department of Human Services to regulate," Hale said. "There's not any statutory authority or knowledge there."

The Department of Wildlife Conservation does inspect some zoos in the state, but it only has jurisdiction over animals native to Oklahoma at those establishments, Hale said.

The Humane Society of the United States has repeatedly called on Oklahoma to pass more stringent laws regulating exotic animal ownership.

#icymi

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A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla.  Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-015c2004f0ab087b020bd4aca392adc5.jpg" alt="Photo - A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>A bengal tiger watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-756d18490bcdaaa88dcd0efcae844b65.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Maldonado talks about animals and the government at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="Joe Maldonado talks about animals and the government at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Joe Maldonado talks about animals and the government at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-51005f046623370fc00de0b817ce08f9.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Exotic is pictured at the at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES] " title=" Joe Exotic is pictured at the at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES] "><figcaption> Joe Exotic is pictured at the at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. [THE OKLAHOMAN ARCHIVES] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-89346c7e638255128a19b94a1d49c71a.jpg" alt="Photo - A monkey watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="A monkey watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>A monkey watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4e452fe6da86e5bc594a7ed789238893.jpg" alt="Photo - A white lion watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="A white lion watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>A white lion watches guests at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-7d69c330125720ce06cbfee680972193.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-35a6abfb94f736ecb601fd358d7c3a3c.jpg" alt="Photo - Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman" title="Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Joe Maldonado works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla. Photo by Steve Sisney, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a7f2343c3ce12ad12f3bd4158d8503bd.jpg" alt="Photo - A tiger rests on the grass at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, formerly known as the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, in Wynnewood, Okla., Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. Kelci Saffery, an employee at the park, was mauled by a different tiger on Saturday after she put her hand in the tiger's cage. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman" title="A tiger rests on the grass at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, formerly known as the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, in Wynnewood, Okla., Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. Kelci Saffery, an employee at the park, was mauled by a different tiger on Saturday after she put her hand in the tiger's cage. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>A tiger rests on the grass at the Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park, formerly known as the G.W. Exotic Animal Park, in Wynnewood, Okla., Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. Kelci Saffery, an employee at the park, was mauled by a different tiger on Saturday after she put her hand in the tiger's cage. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-645c9f0a6c3eef0f5a9e9a5acea10502.jpg" alt="Photo - Amelia Molitor is interviewed by Berry Tramel in the offices of The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, Thursday July, 15 2016. Amelia is the OU student who was struck by Joe Mixon in 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman" title="Amelia Molitor is interviewed by Berry Tramel in the offices of The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, Thursday July, 15 2016. Amelia is the OU student who was struck by Joe Mixon in 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Amelia Molitor is interviewed by Berry Tramel in the offices of The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, Thursday July, 15 2016. Amelia is the OU student who was struck by Joe Mixon in 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b73bc4fc4e88b886b567b8fe1aa6713d.jpg" alt="Photo - This screengrab from Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe surveillance video shows University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon, right, and Amelia Molitor, left, before an altercation between the two in the early morning on July 25, 2014 in Norman, Okla. " title="This screengrab from Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe surveillance video shows University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon, right, and Amelia Molitor, left, before an altercation between the two in the early morning on July 25, 2014 in Norman, Okla. "><figcaption>This screengrab from Pickleman's Gourmet Cafe surveillance video shows University of Oklahoma football player Joe Mixon, right, and Amelia Molitor, left, before an altercation between the two in the early morning on July 25, 2014 in Norman, Okla. </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-770ee15ef257cd69231cdeb11904c628.jpg" alt="Photo - Amanda Chaffin sits with her son Kayden at their home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Amanda Chaffin sits with her son Kayden at their home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Amanda Chaffin sits with her son Kayden at their home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d8cc459e4361efae7a4ba9102da9903a.jpg" alt="Photo - Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-82019dda3862dd46e4577865a5fc0034.jpg" alt="Photo - Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-c9fb9af77ece6dea489d93c2416c82d9.jpg" alt="Photo - Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a697e2d4d2c2ce0a84ff0222b6ae82b4.jpg" alt="Photo - Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman" title="Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Kayden Chaffin takes a picture at his home in Noble, Okla., Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016. Chaffin has spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic illness and his family collects Christmas cards for him. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure>
Juliana Keeping

Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award... Read more ›

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