A town in Ohio went on lockdown after 56 of exotic animals — including lions, tigers, wolves and bears — ran free from their unlocked cages at a 73-acre Muskingum County farm.
Authorities now say they have “accounted for” all of the loose animals
except for one, a monkey. To make matters worse, the monkey at large presents a danger because it is infected with herpes. It is believed the remaining monkey was eaten by one of the 49 dead carnivores.
In all, authorities say 56 exotic animals escaped, and 49 of them were killed.
Six of the animals were captured alive and taken to the Columbus Zoo — they include a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys. As for the dead, “The animals that were killed included 18 tigers, nine male lions, eight female lions, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, one baboon and two wolves, Sheriff Matt Lutz said,” according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The owner of the exotic animal preserve, Terry Thompson, was found dead near his home around dinnertime Tuesday. Sheriff Lutz at a Wednesday briefing said it appears as if Thompson shot himself and let his animals loose. The Columbus Dispatch has more on Thompson:
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives had raided Thompson’s Kopchak Road property in June 2008, seizing more than 100 guns. In April 2010, Thompson pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Columbus to two federal charges: possession of a machine gun and possession of short firearms without serial numbers.
Under terms of his release, Thompson was confined to his home for a year.
Thompson also was convicted in Muskingum County Municipal Court in 2005 of cruelty to animals, having an animal at large and two counts of rendering animal waste without a license. The charges stemmed from allegations that three cows and a bison had died on another property he owned, on Boggs Road in Perry Township, east of Zanesville.
As for why the authorities felt they had to shoot and kill the animals, Sheriff Lutz said, “Public safety was my No. 1 concern. I gave the order that if the animals looked like they were going to get out, they were going down.” And they did.
The entire town of Zanesville was shut down as authorities warned residents to stay indoors and take every precaution possible. County schools closed classed Wednesday after being urged to do so late Tuesday night, with several animals still roaming free.
The cops even posted caution road signs like this one, courtesy of Good Morning America:
“These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa,” Sheriff Matt Lutz warned residents during a press conference early Wednesday. “Right now, we’re shooting to kill. This is a bad situation. It’s been a situation for a long time. We want people to take every precaution.”
Ohio, Fox News reports, has some of the weakest regulations regarding exotic pets. It’s also the state home to the most injuries and deaths caused by them. It’s no surprise, then, this happened in the same state as the Sam Mazzola incident, who died this summer under sexual circumstances. In 2010, Mazzola’s preserve had an animal caretaker killed by a bear.