Panic: Wild animal release in Ohio

posted at 12:45 pm on October 19, 2011 by Jazz Shaw

If they’d only managed to include some velociraptors this story could have come straight out of Jurassic Park. At a “private preserve” in Ohio (as they are cheerfully called) several dozen wild animals either escaped or – more likely – were intentionally released from their cages to roam the suburban wilds of the Buckeye State.

Flashing signs on the highways in eastern Ohio warned motorists Wednesday: Exotic animals on the loose. Call 911.

Schools shuttered and some frightened residents said they were hunkering down in their homes as sheriff’s deputies hunted lions, tigers, leopards and grizzly bears that escaped from a preserve after the death of the owner.

Police have not yet said how Terry Thompson died, but Zanesville Mayor Howard Zwelling told CNN Wednesday that Thompson freed the animals from their pens and then shot himself.

Thompson owned 48 exotic animals. About 30 to 35 of them had been found, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. Those that had escaped from their pens were put down.

There’s a video available at the link which includes interviews with local law enforcement as well as residents. Watching the live updates on CNN this morning, police seem to be ruling out the possibility of murder and mayhem and are focusing on the current theory that Thompson set the animals free himself and then took his own life. As of the most recent report I saw, authorities said they were still looking for, “a mountain lion, a bear and a monkey.”

It’s very sad that dozens of beautiful animals had to be destroyed because of this man’s actions, but public safety must come first. But would we have been dealing with this massive problem in the first place if better controls had been in place? It’s a complicated subject, and one which can rub libertarians the wrong way. Should the government be able to tell you that you can’t keep an animal on your own property? If we agree that public safety is one valid responsibility of said government, this week’s events seem to provide a powerful argument in that direction.

All of this reminded me once again of an excellent film which I will suggest you take a look at. It’s a documentary by Michael Webber called, “The Elephant in the Living Room” and it examines the complex issue of private ownership of dangerous wild animals without getting too judgmental on either side. There have been plenty of incidents of such “pets” creating mayhem, up to and including a chimpanzee ripping a woman’s face off in a private residence.

I love animals. I just don’t care to be dodging leopards outside of the Dunkin Donuts while I wait for my morning coffee.

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I would say Jazz’s last paragraph implies he would lie to see places like these outlawed.

NotCoach on October 19, 2011 at 1:48 PM

And Jazz is right. This wasn’t some well maintained efficient operation. The fence wouldn’t have kept a dog from roaming and the animals spent their days in cages. The man was a hoarder, collector, whatever. He wasn’t a sanctuary or breeding operation, interested in animal welfare or preserving species or even making money. So I agree,” places like these” should be “outlawed.” Or are you saying that this type of operation is okay?
He got away with it legally because the Ohio law on exotic animals is so vague while the laws on domestic animals is much more restrictive. Something needs to change.

Deanna on October 19, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Badger40 on October 19, 2011 at 2:18 PM

One bear, horse, cow or lion could probably be tranquilized. Two…maybe. Three…a weak maybe. Fifty? Sorry, but city or country, you’re shooting or you’re dying.

Ronnie on October 19, 2011 at 2:23 PM

Imagine the PPV opportunity had these animals been released in Zucotti Park.
Man oh man, I’d invite friends over for a tv party.
Bishop on October 19, 2011 at 12:48 PM

*raises hand*
I would like to subscribe to your newsletter…..

TeresainFortWorth on October 19, 2011 at 2:26 PM

We Did It !!

connertown on October 19, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Deanna on October 19, 2011 at 2:22 PM

I don’t know anything about this facility other than the owner lost his damn mind, so I won’t comment specifically on it. But in general I agree that there is nothing wrong with proper regulation and licensing of facilities such as these. They do represent potential public hazards.

However, I do not see a major threat here either. Worst case scenario? The animals all get out. Wait, the animals did all get out! How many mauled or dead as a result at this point?

Granted it places pressure on local law enforcement and disrupted the daily lives of locals. But banning is no solution.

It may be under a sensible regulation regime the owner had no business operating the preserve. And it may be that Ohio needs to revamp its laws concerning such preserves. But in the end this story is still far more sensation than actual threat.

NotCoach on October 19, 2011 at 2:38 PM

I just don’t care to be dodging leopards outside of the Dunkin Donuts while I wait for my morning coffee.

Come on now. Dodging leopards in the morning is going to wake you up a hell of a lot faster than coffee. Plus it would be healthier for you (assuming you don’t get caught). Imagine the stimulus if everyone had a leopard in front of their door tomorrow morning.

theguardianii on October 19, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Watch out for an environmentalist activist boarding a plane to release a virus to punish humanity.

Reference: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114746/

hadsil on October 19, 2011 at 3:08 PM

It would certainly wake you up tho!

JetBoy on October 19, 2011 at 1:51 PM

OT: There is much peer pressure going to convince us to support Mitt.
Don’t. Give. In.
*wink*

annoyinglittletwerp on October 19, 2011 at 3:11 PM

I’m not sure I understand why they couldn’t have been tranquilized.

changer1701 on October 19, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Because it’s not like a Vulcan neck pinch. They would get agitated and then hide before it took effect. At night, that’s a problem.

Ronnie on October 19, 2011 at 1:00 PM

OK, so why not use the Vulcan neck pinch?

justltl on October 19, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Heartbreaking to see all those gorgeous creatures killed like that. And yet it was the right thing to do. These are not cuddly cats that will curl up next to you while you watch the latest episode of “When Animals Attack”. These are the animals in those shows.

And ask Charla Nash about shooting wild animals that are frightened and free for the first time in who knows how long. The CT police kept shooting the chimp while it attacked her – and it didn’t kill him right away.

Adrenaline is powerful stuff.

KrisinNE on October 19, 2011 at 3:26 PM

OK, so why not use the Vulcan neck pinch?

justltl on October 19, 2011 at 3:21 PM

Young Spock had a date night with old Sulu.

Ronnie on October 19, 2011 at 3:30 PM

The decline in our ability to fend for ourselves is just sickening.

It’s just hilarious to hear folks around here talk about the danger these animals pose. To look at these people today, I have no idea how our kind has survived.

EconomicNeocon on October 19, 2011 at 3:40 PM

It’s just hilarious to hear folks around here talk about the danger these animals pose. To look at these people today, I have no idea how our kind has survived.

EconomicNeocon on October 19, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Certainly they posed a danger to someone unarmed or armed with a 15-minutes-to-take-effect tranquilizer gun. Our kind has survived this because we are armed with shotguns.

Ronnie on October 19, 2011 at 3:51 PM

But in the end this story is still far more sensation than actual threat.

NotCoach on October 19, 2011 at 2:38 PM

Hmmmm…well a grizzly and mountain lion were still loose the last I knew. Personally I would find that a threat but you can allow them to roam in your neighborhood if you like.

Deanna on October 19, 2011 at 3:51 PM

Hmmmm…well a grizzly and mountain lion were still loose the last I knew. Personally I would find that a threat but you can allow them to roam in your neighborhood if you like.

Deanna on October 19, 2011 at 3:51 PM

You’re good. You were able to read the secret, unwritten position I was actually advocating. Of course I feel nothing should be done to keep people safe from the animals still on the loose!

NotCoach on October 19, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Sorry I missed the start of this thread. Better late than never . . . .

To quote Big Thug…
Americans have gone soft.

txhsmom on October 19, 2011 at 12:52 PM

In the end, it’s really funny how weak & complacent urban & city dwellers have become. They evidently find it difficult to care for themselves & just rely upon the government to protect them.
Badger40 on October 19, 2011 at 2:18 PM

The decline in our ability to fend for ourselves is just sickening.
It’s just hilarious to hear folks around here talk about the danger these animals pose. To look at these people today, I have no idea how our kind has survived.
EconomicNeocon on October 19, 2011 at 3:40 PM

Today’s Americans have become the most spoiled candy-asses on God’s earth
They learned everything they know about animals from Walt Disney.

Our kind has survived this because we are armed with shotguns.
Ronnie on October 19, 2011 at 3:51 PM

That’s been true ’till now, but the percentage of today’s Americans who can take care of themselves that way is shrinking drastically.

listens2glenn on October 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM

I wouldn’t want to dodge leopards outside of Dunkin Donuts while I wait for my morning coffee…I would however love to have an excuse to wear a pith and carry a .450/400 double rifle while waiting for my coffee at Dunkin Donuts.
doubleplusundead on October 19, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Now that’s a man (or woman) after my own heart!

: )

listens2glenn on October 19, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Sometimes that [Ohio cop] he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a [cop]… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes.

Mr. Joe on October 19, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Okay, lets say these animals were in traffic or something and you really had to shoot. I am giving these officers the benefit of doubt.

The cops are appraently using assault rifles. You are telling me that Ohio cops do not have access to shot guns or a decent high power deer rifle (say 30.06 or higher caliber)? Not only are they probably over reacting but shooting a bear or giraffe with one of those things may be more dangerous than doing nothing.

Idiots.

Considering they’re probably firing 5.56mm Ball (Full Metal Jacket) ammunition, they were probably dumping multiple magazines into the beasts. That’s how they dispatch injured deer around here. They stand back and riddle the torso with .40 pistol rounds.

I guess it’s too much to spend five minutes of academy time, or write a training memo on how to put down a crippled animal.

Mr. Joe on October 19, 2011 at 5:07 PM

I am a bit surprised that those Ohio cops just started blasting all the escaped animals (or maybe I should not be surprised). If they were wandering in traffic or threatening someone, fair enough, but there are zoos in Ohio with tranq guns and I am not sure why you would blast a giraffe or zebra right away.

Strangely enough I was watching Have Gun Will Travel about some guy who was in India and got the Bengali Tiger Curse for wounding a tiger (who went mankiller and attacked the near by villagers). He moved to Texas to avoid tigers. He hired Paladin who apparently shot some problem tiger and had a reputation. Sure enough the circus came to town and its tiger got loose. Turns out the cat was old and toothless and completely tame, but the guy (who was a jerk) was so paniced he fell off a cliff. So the tiger got him.

I think Gene Roddenberry wrote that episode.

Mr. Joe on October 19, 2011 at 5:11 PM

I live in Ohio and let me tell you, I’m glad that those brave troopers took out that giraffe.
I don’t know if I could have slept at night knowing that a vicious giraffe was wandering loose in the neighborhood doing whatever horrible things it is that giraffes do to people.

And I don’t even want to ponder what awful things those zebras could have done. *shudder*

justltl on October 19, 2011 at 6:38 PM

Golly, those rampaging ungulates could probably decimate a patch of hostas faster than you could shout, “Oh the humanity!”

justltl on October 19, 2011 at 6:43 PM

OK, hiding in your house from a lion or a tiger I can understand. But here in CO, we share an environment with mountain lions and bears naturally. There are rules you should follow if you meet up with one, but they don’t usually attack adult humans if you’re careful. You usually don’t even know they’re there.

Common Sense on October 19, 2011 at 7:28 PM

Common Sense on October 19, 2011 at 7:28 PM

I would agree with you as pertains to your wild cats and bears out in Colorado, but predatory/carnivores that escape captivity are a different situation.
Indeed, most of the people of Ohio are a ‘different animal’ from the people who live in the wilds of Colorado.

Most Ohio citizens (not to say all) wouldn’t know how to react in such an encounter.

listens2glenn on October 19, 2011 at 8:57 PM

I don’t fault law enforcement or Jack Hanna for their actions, they got tossed into the middle of a really bad situation… I do fault them for jumping the gun speculating about “what happened” which demonstrates very poor public relations training…. And their story just doesn’t track.

Turning the animals lose on the public doesn’t fit with someone who has been defending himself against animal rights groups. These guys fight to vindicate themselves. Most of the people I know who handle big game have very big egos; they believe they are invincible. If his wife were leaving him (which could be true) then wouldn’t she have taken advantage of the time he was in jail to sell off their considerable joint assets, hide it in a bank account, handle the divorce paperwork and get out of town, instead it appears that she hung around and saw that the animals were cared for. And a year in jail on a minor weapons charge doesn’t strike me as something to make a man depressed: ticked off and resentful, yes: suicidal, no.

In the meantime, there are a number of extreme animal rights groups who do have a record of resorting to violence against humans to achieve their objectives. They do have a record of releasing animals from confinement even if they are dangerous or diseased. They do have a record of using sensationalism to push a public/media narrative that allows them to pressure for laws to be changed in their favor… and sure enough the days media narrative has been “there should be a law”. I currently have a PR Client who has been falsely accused of abusing animals and you’d be shocked at the lengths that these activists go to for their goals.

I don’t know how this will all shake out. I do hope this gentleman has friends and family to speak for him, since he can no longer do so for himself. Even a bad guy deserves to be heard, even if I don’t like what I hear. I just think there is more to the story than what we’re being told.

2nd Ammendment Mother on October 19, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Zanesville is the town i was born in! haha my mom called me earlier today and told me about this as she was in zanesville visitng my grampa hahaha funny

as far a banning peoples ownership of exotic animals i am highly highly against it! i personally keep burmese and reticulated pythons and they are docile very easy to keep animals that i would hate to have taken away from me because of misinformation and misunderstanding!

dirksilver on October 19, 2011 at 10:48 PM

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