Discussion Sparked on Kent County's "Dangerous" Animal Ban - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Discussion Sparked on Kent County's "Dangerous" Animal Ban

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DOVER, Del. -- John Zalewski of Kent County says he'd like to keep poison dart frogs at his home near Milford, something he thinks would not be blocked by the state's permitting process for exotic animals.

However, Zalewski claims he was told by Kent County the frogs would be classified as dangerous animals, even though he said the amphibians are not poisonous when held in captivity.

"I'd put one in my mouth or whatever. They're completely harmless," he said.

Kent County code states it's unlawful to have an animal dubbed dangerous and the purpose of the ban is to protect the health and welfare of people in unincorporated parts of the county. The code states the animals in question "are incapable of adapting to human companionship and their possession by individuals as pets has proven to be a menace to emergency personnel, including firemen, police officers and utility workers, as well as the general public."

Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson (R-District 4) said Zalewski reached out to him and brought the topic up during last week's Levy Court meeting, sparking a discussion that touched on the effectiveness of the law and whether it is too intrusive.

In an interview on Monday, Buckson said he believes the current law may need to be revisited and it could be driving some people to illegally and secretly keep them as pets.

"If we have laws on our books that we can't enforce and, in fact, the state has separate laws, and they're required to enforce them well then I think we should mirror the state," he said.

Delaware has a permitting process for exotic animals, which grants the state veternarian significant discretion in the granting, denial, and revocation of permits. A number of mammals and reptiles are exempt from the list, according to state code.

However, Dan Stonebraker with the 3 Palm Zoo & Education Center near Smyrna said many exotic animals are surrendered or dumped into the wild after an owner decides they can't or don't want to take care of them any more.

Many animals surrendered to the zoo, like a pair of alligators received this year, require specific habitats and other qualities in a home that might require an owner to make significant accommodations.

"Research needs to be done, in some cases with particular animals, perhaps even some training or at least some background guidance," he said.

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