On May 19th, the Ohio Supreme Court overruled a Stark County judge who ordered ten exotic animals be returned to Stump Hill Farm after they were seized by the State Department of Agriculture earlier this month.
Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione signed the search warrant that gave the agency permission to go onto the property where they seized five tigers, two baboons, two pumas and a chimpanzee. The following day Forchione reversed his decision and ordered the animals returned by Thursday, May 19.
The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Judge Forchione does not have jurisdiction in the case other than to sign the warrant, and the Department of Agriculture has the legal right to seize the animals.
A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture told Fox 8 News that the agency was acting on a law passed in 2012 that prevented anyone in the state from owning dangerous exotic animals.
Owners like Huntsman are still permitted to keep the animals if they meet specific requirements including accreditation by agencies including the Zoological Association of America.
Erica Hawkins with the Department of Agriculture said the agency decided to seize the animals after getting a letter from Huntsman’s attorney saying that she had been denied membership to the ZAA. Huntsman said she felt the state should have given her more time and felt they already knew she was working toward getting the necessary accreditation.
Hawkins says Huntsman still legally owns the animals but she cannot keep them on her property under the current state law.
A hearing is scheduled to be held in late August.