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State seizes 4 bears from southwest Ohio owner as crackdown on exotic animals continues


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four bears were seized Wednesday from an Ohio property, the second time in three days that the state took animals from owners as it cracks down on owners who haven't complied with tightened requirements for owning dangerous wild creatures.

Three black bears and a brown bear were removed near Germantown, southwest of Dayton, after the owner refused to surrender them, Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said. She said she couldn't provide details about the condition of the bears or where they were kept.

Owner Daniel Chambers had indicated on an earlier permit application that he also had a tiger and a cougar, but those animals weren't found and it wasn't immediately clear what happened to them, Hawkins said.

Chambers' public phone number rang as disconnected, and he didn't immediately respond to a message sent via a fundraising website under his name.

The bears, which had been under a quarantine order since July, were taken to a state holding facility in Reynoldsburg while officials try to find them new homes.

A hundred animals — most surrendered, some seized — have moved through the facility since Ohio enacted stricter rules after a suicidal man released dozens of animals, including lions and tigers, from a Zanesville-area farm in 2011.

The seizure of the bears came two days after a different owner, Mike Stapleton of Paws and Claws Animal Sanctuary near Waldo, surrendered five tigers when state officials showed up at his door. Like Stapleton, Chambers had started but never finished the application process for a required permit.

Hawkins said that in other cases, owners had submitted incomplete applications and the state was able to work with them to address what was missing. But she said that hadn't worked with Stapleton and Chambers.

"These two guys were in a group of people that, despite multiple outreaches to try to give them that same courtesy to allow them to complete that permit application, they chose not to do it," Hawkins said.

Stapleton told The Marion Star after surrendering his tigers that they were well cared for and that he'd done what he could to try to keep them, including unsuccessfully seeking an accreditation that might help exempt him under the state law.

Chambers had been warned that he failed to provide proof of insurance, an affidavit of compliance with housing standards and a plan for dealing with a potential animal escape, Hawkins said.

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