Lodi couple fighting to keep custody of pet bear

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LODI, Ohio -- Jeff and Debbie Gillium are frantically trying to find ways to keep custody of their black bear named Archie.

The state sent them a letter recently telling them they didn’t have the necessary permit and will now have to surrender him.

"I cried for days and days. I could hardly talk to them people without crying,” said Debbie Gillium. They rescued Archie from a bad home when he was much younger; he’s now in his late 30s.

Debbie said they tried to call the Ohio Department of Agriculture to get a permit, but it was too late. The deadline was last year.

Jeff said it’s frustrating because they used to get permits through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and didn’t know ODA had assumed that role.  "They didn't notify us until two weeks ago,” he said.

The changes came after an incident in Zanesville where exotic animals were let loose and caused a lot of chaos.

A spokesperson for ODA said they did notify all permit holders about the new requirements and isn’t sure why the couple claims otherwise.

There are exemptions under the law, but they do not qualify for them.

At this point, their options are limited. They can either take Archie to another state or give up custody. Veterinarians would then find a sanctuary for him.

Debbie said they haven’t been told where exactly.

"They gave us three different stories. I just got the runaround all the time. I never got straight answers,” she said.

She said they are not giving up their fight, and want Archie to live out his final years with them. "I'll stand at the gate. They can shoot me before they do anything to Archie,” she said with tears in her eyes.

Someone has started a petition to support Archie. Click here to see it.