All 88 counties in Ohio are working to finalize their own exotic animal response teams.
The state requirement is in response to the 2011 tragedy in Zanesville, where dozens of animals were killed after their owner released them to the wild.
Each county team must have at least eight members.
Franklin County's team will have 14, including the sheriff, other law enforcement officials, a veterinarian, a person trained in first aid and three exotic animal owners.
Michael Weier says he's been an exotic animal lover his whole life.
"I've had Clyde here, the tortoise here, since he was about as big as a 50 cent piece,” said Weier. "We had a female African lion, we had all kinds of pheasants and quail and rheas and different animals. We were always interested in different animals.”
Clyde shares a backyard pen with Arnold the alligator who was just a foot long when Michael got him.
"Actually, it was a Valentine's gift to me from my wife,” added Weier.
They aren’t just pets for this couple.
"My wife and I, we affectionately call them our boys,” he said.
When Michael was asked to become a member of the Franklin County Dangerous Wild Animal Response Team, he said yes.
"I don't think I ever want to see what happened in Zanesville happen again. Too many absolutely beautiful animals were killed,” he said.
The incident in Zanesville in 2011 is a sobering reminder of what can go wrong. More than 50 exotic animals were released from cages, most shot to death to protect the public.
Now, all 88 counties must have teams ready to deal with similar events in the future.
Michael's confident his knowledge of exotics can help save lives, should the team be called out to capture an escaped exotic.
"I believe our combined efforts could get that animal out of wherever it is alive, and then get it somewhere where it can be taken care of,” said Weaver.
The other members of the team are: Chief Steve Hein of the Truro Township Fire Department, Sgt. Josh Short of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Kim Nuesse of the Minerva Park Police, Director of FCEM&HS Michael R. Pannell, Matthew Keefe of the FCEM&HS, Mark Hollar of Central Trauma Systems, Franklin County Sheriff Zachary Scott, Columbus City Councilwoman Michelle Mills, Wild Animal Owners Robert Beals and Pamela White.
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