- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio (AP) - The owner of six tigers and four other exotic animals seized by Ohio wants them returned immediately because he believes they aren’t being cared for properly by the state.

Kenny Hetrick has asked a judge to order the return of the animals to his sanctuary near Toledo.

Two state veterinarians dispute his claims about the animals, which are being housed in a high security building just outside Columbus.

The animals “are receiving competent and appropriate care in every respect, including regular and appropriate feeding, cage cleaning, veterinary care, and all other species-appropriate care and housing,” said Tony Forshey, a state veterinarian.

The state removed the animals in late January after denying Hetrick a permit to keep them. It also said there were concerns that the cages and fencing at the property could allow some of them to escape.

Ohio has been cracking down over the last few years on owners of big cats and other creatures after a man in eastern Ohio released dozens of exotic animals, including African lions and Bengal tigers, and killed himself in 2011.

Hetrick, who has been taking in abused and unwanted animals since the mid-1970s, is challenging the seizure of his animals, taking his case before both a state board and the courts.

His latest challenge filed last week in Wood County Common Pleas Court said the state’s daily care logs show that the animals have had injuries, are not being fed appropriately and are living in cages that are not clean, The (Toledo) Blade (https://bit.ly/1IZB3L0 ) reported.

“Since the animals were confiscated, serious health conditions have developed for many of the animals due to substandard care,” Hetrick’s motion said.

The state’s veterinarians said that minor injuries or other conditions for the animals were either treated or were resolved without treatment. They also said the cages were cleaned regularly.

“Nothing in the care of the animals creates a danger to the health of the animals,” Forshey said.

The state also told the court that Hetrick cannot legally keep the animals now because he still lacks a permit.

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