A Stark County Common Pleas judge dismissed a civil lawsuit filed by a Perry Township animal owner after the state removed animals from her care.
Stump Hill Farm owner Cyndi Huntsman filed the suit in June, claiming the state Department of Agriculture violated her rights when it seized five tigers, two pumas, two baboons and chimpanzee in May.
The state removed the animals from the farm because Huntsman does not possess a state-issued permit required to house dangerous animals under Ohio’s Dangerous Wild Animal Law.
The lawsuit asked the court to return the animals and to declare that Huntsman’s federal and state rights were violated.
In his decision, Judge John Haas ruled that the state holds exclusive jurisdiction over enforcement of Ohio’s dangerous animal law.
The court, he said, does not have subject matter jurisdiction.
“I think he is relying on the Supreme Court’s decision,” John Juergensen, Huntsman’s legal counsel, said. “The bottom line is he feels as though he doesn’t have subject matter jurisdiction.”
Juergensen said he plans to file an appeal with the state’s 5th District Court of Appeals.
In his ruling, Haas advised that should any harm come to the animals while in state custody, Huntsman might have a claim for monetary damages. “It would be in the best interest of the ODA to ensure the well-being of the animals during the pendency of any litigation,” Haas wrote.
Huntsman has questioned the state’s care of her animals. Two of four tiger cubs born shortly after their mother was seized from the farm, died at the state holding facility. The two remaining cubs were removed from their mother’s care.
The state declined to comment, citing other pending litigation with Huntsman.