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Zoo Owner Sets Exotic Animals Free, Kills Himself

Townspeople from Zanesville, Ohio cowered indoors Wednesday as deputies with high-powered rifles hunted down and killed lions, bears and dozens of other exotic beasts that escaped from a wild-animal preserve after the owner threw their cages open and committed suicide.

A sign warns passing motorists about exotic animals on the loose from a wildl...
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Above: A sign warns passing motorists about exotic animals on the loose from a wildlife preserve October 19, 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio.

After an all-night hunt, at least 30 of the 48 escaped animals had been gunned down. As of mid-morning, officers were still hunting for a grizzly bear, mountain lion and monkey.

Schools closed, parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors and flashing signs along highways told motorists, "Caution exotic animals" and "Stay in vehicle."

Neighbor Danielle White, whose father's property abuts the Muskingum County Animal Farm, said she didn't see loose animals this time but did in 2006, when a lion escaped.

"It's always been a fear of mine knowing (the owner) had all those animals," she said. "I have kids. I've heard a male lion roar all night."

Officers in the mostly rural area about 55 miles east of Columbus were under orders to shoot to kill for fear that animals hit with tranquilizer darts would run off and hide in the darkness.

The owner of the preserve, Terry Thompson, apparently released dozens of animals, including lions, tigers, bears and wolves, before committing suicide, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. Authorities would not say how he killed himself and no suicide note was found. Lutz wouldn't speculate on why he committed suicide.

The animals' cages had been opened and the farm's fences had been left unsecured, police said.

The sheriff's office had received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals at the property, Lutz said.

"This is a bad situation," the sheriff said. "It's been a situation for a long time."

Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and a nationally known wild animal expert, said that of the three animals believed to be unaccounted for, he was most concerned about the mountain lion, because of its impressive leaping ability. He said anyone confronting these animals should not run, because they will give chase.

Hanna defended the sheriff against criticism that the animals should have been captured alive.

"What was he to do at nighttime with tigers and lions, leopards, going out there?" Hanna said. "In the wild this would be a different situation."

The preserve in Zanesville had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears. Lutz called the animals "mature, very big, aggressive" but said a caretaker told authorities they had been fed on Monday.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 19, 2011 at 11:06 a.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

Hunting for a monkey? Come on, people.

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Avatar for user 'abdalla'

abdalla | October 19, 2011 at 1:15 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

people care too much about the life of animals than that of humans and that bothers me a lot. unfortunately, this has been the case for a long time. those wild animals which should have not been kept in a jail to start with, were capable of killing or injuring at least 30 humans if those animals were not killed. but obviously, some people prefer humans to get hurt than animals. give me a break!!! for example, dog fighting is illegal but boxing is not. why? because "dogs don't have a choice". animal rights advocates will jump on any case that involves a human hurting an animal no matter if it is a defense or another matter but won't say a word about animals that hurt humans. if animal right advocates want to be fare then they should be responsible for animals that hurt human too not only when human hurt an animal.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 19, 2011 at 8:03 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

I suggest going to msnbc for a more thorough report on this story.

What is not mentioned here is that an executive order issued by former Gov. Ted Strickland (D)-Ohio just days before he left office in January prohibited people convicted of animal cruelty (as the owner of these animals had been) from owning exotic animals.

The administration of current Gov. John Kasich (R)-Ohio allowed the order to expire in April, noting concerns about its enforceability and its impact on small businesses.

This is yet another example of Republican's radical "de-regulation" agenda gone awry as people (and in this case animals) suffer.

It is a tragedy that this man was allowed PERFECTLY LEGALLY under Ohio law to own these animals.

Here are just some of the animals slaughtered because of the Ohio Republican Governor's failure to regulate and the mentally ill psychopath allowed to own these animals perfectly legally in Ohio:

18 endangered Bengal tigers

17 African lions

6 black bears

3 mountain lions

3 grizzly bears

3 wolves

1 baboon

In all 48 animals slaughtered.


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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 19, 2011 at 8:29 p.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

I just realized the math doesn't add up in my post above, sorry.

I got the total number and the breakdown of animals from different reports, apparently more than 50 have now been slaughtered.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | October 20, 2011 at 8:55 a.m. ― 5 years, 5 months ago

What happened to the giraffes and the camels?

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