MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Animal welfare groups are fighting to change North Carolina laws that dictate the type of pets that residents can own.
The state is one of only five nationwide that does not have laws regarding exotic animals.
Reporter Dave Faherty investigated recent exotic animal attacks and asked welfare groups which animals would be on the endangered list if the law passes.
It has been illegal to own exotic animals in Charlotte since 1989, but in more than half the counties in the state, there are no regulations. Even in Mecklenburg County, people have skirted the rules.
Mark Balestra, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control director, said owning exotic animals can become a public health issue.
“You can get herpes B, tuberculosis, and you can get rabies from mammals," Balestra said.
The center has received a baboon, monkeys, albino cobras, Vietnamese pit vipers, monitor lizards and four mountain lions
Family pushes for exotic animal ban after loved one killed
In Wilkes County, a 400-pound Siberian tiger took the life of a 10-year-old boy.
Bertie Byers has never spoken publicly about the attack that killed her grandson, C.J. Eller.
She and C.J.'s aunt, Jamie Johnson, showed some of the last photos of C.J. before deputies said he was pulled under a fence and mauled by a tiger that was kept in a relative's back yard.
"(I) couldn't believe it. It just makes you numb. (I) couldn't believe something like that would happen," Byers said.
Regulations changed in Wilkes County after C.J.'s death 10 years ago.
But in other parts of the state, people can still own big cats.
"I want it banned. I mean, I don't believe in having pets like that because of things like this. I'm all for having it banned," Johnson said.
But deciding which animals to outlaw has caused controversy.
This summer, hundreds of people in Morganton signed a petition to allow Jon Freed to keep Tyra, his serval cat.
Related: Owners of serval cat fight to keep animal in Morganton home
"We know Tyra is exotic. We know that. But she is not a dangerous exotic animal," Freed said.
Even the mayor visited Tyra and agreed that the animal should be exempt from Morganton's ordinance.
"This cat is tame. The cat is declawed. It's been living with this family since it was a kitty, and it is a pet," Mayor Mel Cohen said.
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