Ohio Couple Asked To Give Up Pet Bear Living With Them For 33 Years

Archie is a 39-year-old bear living as a pet with an Ohio family for the past three decades. The pet bear, which is now in the twilight of its life, faces a new threat, after officials from the Ohio Department of Agriculture told the owners to surrender the bear to them. Thanks to a new law passed in the state back in 2012, the bear which has been living with Jeff Gillium for the past 33 years suddenly turns out to be illegal.

According to USA Today, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has served a notice to Jeff Gillium and his wife, Debbie Gillium, saying that they must either get a permit to keep the bear with them or surrender the animal to them. The other option the family has is to transfer the bear out of the state. The decision of the ODA is based on the Dangerous Wild Animal Act passed by Ohio State back in 2012, which prohibits casual ownership of wild animals in the state.

Jeff Gillium says he has had Archie as his pet bear since the bear was just 6-years-old. He had rescued the bear from a “horrible situation” where the bear was living in a cage just four feet high. Now, Gillium’s greatest worry is if his old friend would be able to live out his last days with him. Archie is now nearly 40-years-old, a ripe old age for bears.

“The ODA says they’re going to come out and use a tranquilizer. That might kill him. My only other option is to kill him myself,” said Gillium.

It was last week that the couple received a letter from the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Erica Hawkins, an official at the ODA, explained the situation.

“The Dangerous Wild Animal Act was passed in 2012 to prohibit casual dangerous wild animal ownership in Ohio. The law provided a reasonable opportunity for existing owners to obtain a permit to keep their animals and this owner did not comply. If relinquished as requested, the Department’s animal health veterinarians will work to identify an appropriate, permanent home for the animal and will use their professional judgment to develop a plan for the safe movement of the animal.”

Meanwhile, Debbie Gillium says that they were never made aware of the new law passed in 2012.

<"The only thing I was told is that we were grandfathered in from the division of wildlife and the USDA. We were never informed of this law," she said. However, according to WKYC, the law under which they had kept the bear all these years was repealed in 2012 — to be replaced by the new one. The new law was triggered after the Zanesville incident, wherein a suicidal owner had let loose several of his exotic animals. Under the new law, owners of exotic animals had to apply for a permit and prove to the authorities about how the animals are kept. Up to 2013, the Gillium family did have a permit. It was only after they went to renew the permit that they were told that it is now too late to get a permit, and that the pet bear will have to be relocated.

Debbie, who has also taken an active part in taking care of her husband’s pet near all these years, says that authorities should allow the bear to remain with them for the rest of his life.

“I think that he should be allowed to finish out his life here, his years here.I think that’s the fair thing. We are not using him for profit. He’s never harmed anybody in all these years. They should’ve notified us they had all summer.”

Do you think Archie the pet bear deserves to live the last days of his life with the people that raised him for over three decades?

[Image Via WKYC News]