Panic: Wild animal release in Ohio

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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