South Carolina's exotic pet population is about to get a lot less exotic. A new bill recently passed by the state House of Representatives and introduced to the Senate aims to prohibit individuals from owning large wild cats, non-native bears, and great apes. This ban would include all lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cougars, cheetahs, all bears that are not native to South Carolina, as well as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
Currently in South Carolina, most individuals are prohibited from possessing "furbearers" — a designation that includes foxes, raccoons, opossums, muskrats, mink, skunks, otters, bobcats, weasels, and beavers. Non-domestic pigs, bison, mountain goats, coyote, turkeys, and non-native fish are also off-limits for most people. This is, of course, sad news for those looking to liven up their nativity scenes.
Now before the state Senate's Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources, the new restrictions on great ape ownership would not apply to animal-protection organizations, properly licensed research facilities, circuses, or someone traveling through the state with their cheetah. Also, if you already happen to own a bear prior to the date the bill becomes a law, you can hang onto it for the remainder of the animal's life as long as you register your beast with your local agencies, pay an initial fee of $500 to your neighborhood animal control authority, and pony up an annual fee of $100 per lion, bear, or gorilla.