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Brown County repeals ban on exotic animals

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BROWN COUNTY, Texas - Brown County Commissioners repealed an order signed in 2002 banning exotic animals.

Commissioner Larry Traweek was the only one who voted nay on Monday to axe a rule prohibiting people living in unincorporated areas from having certain wild animals. The county bans several animals, including lions, tigers, bears, and gorillas.

"From our standpoint, the citizens of Brown County have the right to possess those animals," Brown County Chief Deputy James Stroope said at Monday's meeting. "I'm not opposed to going [and] inspecting that."

The original order adopted in 2002 states "non-domestic animals pose a danger both to the residents and to the domestic animals of Brown County."

It made the ownership of exotic animals a class C misdemeanor.

Commissioners took up the issue because of Billy Waddle.

He built W and W Zoo in the unincorporated town of Owens and wants to introduce exotic animals. He asked commissioners in March for permission to bring in bobcats, baboons, and baby tigers.

"[There are] a lot of smaller animals [I want to bring]," Waddle said. "Like I said before, I'm not wanting to breed lions or tigers, or anything like that."

Stroope lobbied commissioners to follow the state's health and safety code instead. This gives the sheriff's office the authority to act as animal control.

Deputies will monitor exotic animals and owners will need a permit. The sheriff's office can charge a fee of up to $50 per exotic animal for the owners but no more than $500.

"There's vet records that have to be kept," Stroope said. "Pictures of the animals will have to be taken within 30 days of moving into the county."

Waddle said he was surprised by how fast commissioners took action on this issue.

His zoo, located eight miles north of Early along Highway 183, is open on Saturdays. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children.

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