EAST AURORA, N.Y. (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) wants to expand its list of dangerous animals because, of what it said, are a growing number of accidents involving dangerous animals.
It would also include new regulations to make sure private individuals or facilities that exhibit dangerous animals can do so without posing a threat to public safety and native fish or wildlife.
However, there are concerns about the impact the expanded list could have on animal outreach programs.
Hawk Creek Wildlife Center in East Aurora is worried that changes will negatively impact its nature and conservation programs because it could limit what animals can be taken to places like schools and public events.
"When they see a live animal in front of them, they are instantly engaged and want to learn more," said Tiffany Cimino from Hawk Creek.
Under the proposed expanded list, Eurasian lynx and skunks will be classified as dangerous animals - both are animals that Hawk Creek uses for its education programs talking about endangered species, rabies, and protecting the environment.
"That will take this opportunity away from over a million people per year," said Tanya Lowe from Hawk Creek.
The wildlife center felt the instances of human injuries used as justification by the NYSDEC are not current, and Hawk Creek volunteers thought the changes are being pushed by people more interested in animal rights than animal welfare.
The Buffalo Zoo also has a collection of dangerous animals. It uses special accreditation protocols and procedures to house the animals so they don't pose a threat to workers or visitors.
"For the safety of the public, the care and safety of the animals, it is best that those animals be in care situations where trained professionals are able to provide that care," added Buffalo Zoo President & CEO Norah Fletchall.
The DEC cautions that under its regulation change, "some facilities or individuals may not meet the proposed, new requirements of obtaining additional dangerous animals for exhibition purposes."
While the Buffalo Zoo has helped in cases where dangerous animals were confiscated, it is not able to be a destination for dangerous animals taken from other private facilities.
"We do not have, and cannot be, the repository for all of those animals. We just do not have the space," explained Fletchall.
The public can provide comments to the NYSDEC about the proposed expanded dangerous animals list with its new regulations until November 18, 2019.