Police in rural eastern Ohio were on safari last night and today. They’re hunting about 4 dozen exotic animals let loose from a private preserve, the Muskingum County Animal Farm, near Zanesville.
Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office got calls of exotic animals near roadways beginning about 5:30 PM yesterday. When deputies responded to the animal farm, they found owner Terry Thompson dead of a self-inflicted wound and the cages and pens open. Overnight, police killed all but a mountain lion, a bear, and a monkey. The president of the Humane Society of the US, Wayne Pacelle, described the situation as:
Local authorities are now spending enormous resources on personnel, helicopters, infrared, and equipment chasing down and killing free-roaming exotic animals in order to protect public safety.
Most states regulate exotic animal ownership, but not Ohio. That’s how Thompson, 62, and just released from a year in jail on weapons charges, was able to collect his menagerie. This was not the first time authorities had been called to the exotic animal farm, Muckingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.
We’ve gotten about 35 calls since ’04, ’05, with complaints the animals were running at large and not being treated properly. We’ve handled numerous complaints here, we’ve done numerous inspections here. So this has been a huge problem for us for a number of years.
As one might expect, animal lovers are not happy with the slaughter, but they fault Ohio’s lack of legislation and Thompson’s inhumane treatment and final release of the animals. The clear message is predatory, exotic animals don’t belong in private, unregulated hands. The animals, by nature, are aggressive and unpredictable. They need to be treated with respect, dignity, and be left to their habitats or professionals at zoos or sanctuaries.