Animal House: Reynoldsburg's holding facility for exotic animals

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

In 2013, state officials built the Dangerous Wild Animal Temporary Holding Facility in Reynoldsburg to house unpermitted creatures relinquished by their owners or seized by the state. The $2.9 million compound was created in the aftermath of the 2011 Zanesville animal massacre, which led to a crackdown on private ownership of lions, tigers, bears and other exotic animals. Here's a breakdown of creatures hosted by the state over the past three years.

  • 69 alligators
  • 17 bears
  • 11 tigers
  • 3 restricted snakes (anacondas, venomous snakes and pythons 12 feet or longer)
  • 2 cougars
  • 1 liger
  • 1 lion
  • 1 leopard
  • 1 dwarf crocodile
  • 1 serval
  • 1 bobcat
  • 1 timber wolf

Gator glut

By far, alligators are the most frequent guests at the state's temporary holding facility. The 69 that have passed through represent more than half of all total animals seized or relinquished. "One thing to understand with alligators is that they're relatively easy to acquire," says Dennis Summers, veterinarian with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, which oversees the facility. "They can cost between $100 and $150 through states like Florida, and you can have it shipped to you in about two days."

Ohio's alligators-almost always American alligators, or Alligator mississippiensis-are often found in basements, plastic kiddie pools, modified dog pens, chicken coops, even bathtubs, Summers says. State officials once found an alligator underneath a woman's car in Columbus. "Usually these animals are not in the very best of conditions," Summers says. "Most that we find are not properly cared for, so their growth has been stunted."

An alligator's stay at the state facility can last anywhere from a couple of days to two months before they are transferred to live out their days at a professional rescue or sanctuary in South Carolina, Florida or Georgia.