An ocelot gazes from its enclosure at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, home to more than 200 lions, tigers and other exotic felines. The center, among the largest exotic animal rescue centers in the country, must follow federal regulations because the public can view the cats. After an appeals court ruling earlier this year, other Indiana residents can now purchase and keep even the most dangerous wild animals without any state oversight. Staff photo by David Snodgress
An ocelot gazes from its enclosure at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, home to more than 200 lions, tigers and other exotic felines. The center, among the largest exotic animal rescue centers in the country, must follow federal regulations because the public can view the cats. After an appeals court ruling earlier this year, other Indiana residents can now purchase and keep even the most dangerous wild animals without any state oversight. Staff photo by David Snodgress
Lions, tigers and bears — in your backyard or your neighborhood.

Add venomous snakes and other wild animals to the list of what residents of Indiana can now keep with no state regulations regarding their care or containment.

It’s the result of a ruling earlier this year by the Indiana Court of Appeals that states 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 deal with high-fenced deer farms in Indiana, but the wording affects all captive-held wild animals in the state.

The Feb. 2 ruling has totally changed what Linnea Petercheff, operations staff specialist for the Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife, and others do daily. “It changed what I do as far as not issuing a bunch of permits,” she said.

“There’s nobody regulating venomous snakes or other wild animals unless a local entity has an ordinance prohibiting the possession of these animals,” Petercheff said. “We’re not allowed to issue game breeder licenses and wild animal possession permits.” State officials can no longer issue reptile captive breeder permits, bait dealer permits and fish hauler and supplier permits.

That means there is no longer a state agency in charge of making sure every privately owned wild animal is properly contained, cannot escape and is well taken care of.

“We did have regulations in place and some fairly strict housing requirements,” Petercheff said.

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