A court decision earlier this year that most Hoosiers considered unpopular is even worse than we thought.

In February, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources does not have authority “to protect and manage wild animals that are legally owned or being held in captivity under a license or permit.”

The ruling was meant to legalize high-fenced deer farms in Indiana. However, its broad wording turns out to affect all captive wild animals in the state.

As its main focus, the ruling said the DNR can’t regulate businesses where hunters — a real stretch of that term in this case — shoot deer that are confined behind high fences.

But the decision also throws out the state’s regulation of all kinds of privately owned wild animals. Now, no state agency is responsible for making those animals are given proper care or that they are contained so they can’t escape.

Hoosiers could be keeping anything from tigers to poisonous snakes without any rules — or any notice to fire departments or police departments, who might encounter them in the line of duty.

On the slightly less threatening side, the state can’t do anything about people owning animals such as raccoons and foxes that are prone to spreading rabies.

The Herald-Times newspaper of Bloomington, which reported on this problem, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates breeding and selling of wild animals, but not their sale or possession of them as pets. Now, Indiana doesn’t control that, either.

A state DNR official told the newspaper that venomous snakes are being sold at reptile shows in Indiana, among other potential nightmares.

The state of chaos puts the welfare of the captive animals at risk. But more important is the danger to the rest of us.

The newspaper reports that state Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, plans to sponsor a bill that would restore some state control over wild animals, including the most dangerous species.

Crider’s bill won’t address the issue of high-fence hunting. That seems wise, because some lawmakers apparently support the right of property owners to conduct “canned” hunting if they wish. Mixing the issues together could bog down his bill.

The need to regulate other wild animals should not be controversial. We hope legislators will put it on the fast track when they get down to business in January.

© 2020 KPCNews, Kendallville, IN.