Ohio’s Department of Agriculture tells Cleveland 19 News that the bear’s dwelling was not up to code

By Amy Jamieson
Updated March 02, 2016 08:34 PM
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A pet was removed from a Plain Township, Ohio, home on Monday.

Owner Jeff Fitzgerald is devastated following the removal of his pet from the enclosure on his Stark County property, but Ohio’s Department of Agriculture tells Cleveland 19 News that the bear’s dwelling was not up to code.

This week, the Department of Agriculture took custody of Ben and said that Fitzgerald had the opportunity to keep his pet if he had followed their orders.

Erica Hawkins, a spokesperson for the department said in a statement given to the news station, “The owner was given numerous opportunities over the last 18 months to make the necessary upgrades to his animal’s cage to bring it to compliance.”

Fitzgerald counters that he hadn’t had the time to update the enclosure. “In 2015 the roofing was starting to go and I had planned on trying to get this done but me driving a truck and working six-to-seven days a week, it’s kinda hard,” he said.

Each time Fitzgerald was cited he agreed to make the repairs, Cleveland 19 reports. Fitzgerald added that although the cage needed work, Ben — who has been hibernating in his cave since November — would never hurt anyone or ever try to escape since he was happy where he was.

Sadly, for Fitzgerald, it was a tough goodbye on Monday. “And I said goodbye to him and he was licking me and grabbing my finger and stuff,” said Fitzgerald, who owned the animal for 18 years.

Ben was taken to the Department of Agriculture’s facility in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, and will be transferred to an animal sanctuary at a later date.