Zanesville’s Exotic Animal Tragedy

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have heard from people who have “exotic” pets that are not considered dangerous and are not deemed at risk because of domestication. I have no complaint with these individuals, provided that they adequately research and provide for their pets’ unique needs. In my opinion, any legislation brought forward needs to allow for reasonable care of non-dangerous animals by responsible pet owners.

I am very scanton-mountain-lion-art-BZTATad and very angry today.

A senseless tragedy has happened in my state of Ohio, and it was totally preventable.

Terry Thompson’s so-called exotic animal farm in Zanesville, OH is 91.4 miles from my home in Canton, OH. Yesterday, Mr. Thompson apparently opened the cages of over 40 exotic wild animals on his property, purposefully releasing them, then proceeded to kill himself, according to the Muskingum County Sheriff.

Faced with several dangerous wild animals on the loose, the sheriff was left with few options for securing the public’s safety. Killing the animals was the only viable option.

At this writing, most of the animals have been killed and only a handful recaptured.

I do not have complaint with the Sheriff’s choice of hunting down and killing the animals. I DO have complaint with Ohio’s governor and legislature for not taking action sooner to prevent the sale and ownership of exotic wild animals in Ohio.The sheriff should have never been put in the position of hunting down wild animals.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, Thompson, a convicted felon and convicted animal abuser, would not have been able to have exotic animals on his property if an emergency rule passed by previous governor Ted Strickland had been maintained. Our current governor John Kasich opted to allow the emergency rule to expire.

Ironically, Kasich claims that there were no resources to enforce the law. I wonder whose resources will pick up the tab for the law enforcement effort going on right now? It cannot be cheap to enlist deputies, state police officers, helicopters, zoo officials, etc. to track down wild, dangerous animals.

Ohio has been very backward in it’s attempts to address legislation affecting the care of animals. Communities often go over the top with Breed Specific Legislation, using very ineffective legislation to address the problem of aggressive dogs, yet they have done basically nothing to address the problem of puppy mills and exotic animal auctions/farms that create serious problems for humans and animals.

I hope that the international attention focused on Ohio currently will help Ohioans see the error of their ways.

This blog focuses primarily on the issues of domestic animals and the bond between humans and pets. I could not ignore this egregious example of animal abuse, however. When animals are abused, as they were in this case (inappropriate captivity, reportedly poor conditions in the past, animal hoarding, and intentional release into inhabited areas) humans are also in danger.

The Humane Society has been appealing to the Ohio authorities for a long time to address the lack of effective exotic animals legislation in the State of Ohio. They have released a statement about the Zanesville situation, and they have developed an action page for the public to voice concern on the subject. I hope that you will visit these pages and let your voice be heard.

I am sure that there are people with exotic pets who are well-meaning, good people. Wild exotic animals, though, are unpredictable, and for most, it is in their nature to be aggressive. Often, people who are ill-equipped to manage them “collect” (another word for hoarding) wild animals, thinking they are rescuing them. As in this case and another Ohio exotic animal farm recently in the news, the owners are people who have had troubles with the law and psychological instability. They abuse the very animals that they claim to rescue, and they put their communities at risk.

Ohio is one of less than 10 states that do not have legislation banning the ownership of wild exotic animals. Let’s hope, in light of the present tragedy, that will end soon.


3 thoughts on “Zanesville’s Exotic Animal Tragedy”

  1. I feel awful for the animals and the people of Zainesville. What in the world are the Ohio legislators thinking?!?! Grrrr.

  2. It has truly been a heartbreaking and sad series of events in our home state. My thoughts and prayers are with the many officers who were forced to do what they probably did not want to do. Thank you to them for keeping their communities safe in the face of such great controversy and danger. My heart goes out to all the animals who suffered in life and only wanted to be wild animals.

  3. Brava Bz! Sadness and anger. Rage.

    And how brave were those first responders and the wildlife vet who crept up to one tiger, risking her life in the hopes of saving this cat’s life in a tranq dart instead of bullet. But the bullet was needed anyway. You know she’s been living with Kasich’s ridiculous policies every day dealing with exotic pets and puppy mills. So today was the absolute worst of a long series of days, weeks, months years for everyone in Ohio who deeply cares about animals.

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