Daily Archives: October 25, 2011

Ohio’s Exotic-Animal Keeper: Friend or Foe?


I read a bizarre, upsetting story in the headlines last week. Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio was found dead in his home from an apparent self-inflicted wound on Tuesday, October 18. The kicker, you ask? He released more than 50 exotic animals from their cages and set them free before his apparent suicide.

Ohio authorities were ordered to shoot any animals and did so, resulting in 49 fatalities–including 18 rare bengal tigers, an endangered species. Police captured and killed lions, tigers, bears and other beasts. They also searched for a monkey believed to be carrying the HIV virus, but later confirmed he had been eaten by one of the other animals.

Thompson, 62, was known as an “animal lover” to the community who knew of his 72-acre exotic-animal farm. Sure, if the definition of an animal lover includes multiple animal-cruelty convictions including having an animal at large and two counts of rendering animal waste without a license. In 2008, Thompson was also charged for weapon violations after authorities found more than 100 guns on his property. I’m sure these weapons weren’t just chew toys for the kitties.

The state of Ohio is known for it’s weak laws on animal protection and is one of the easiest states to “lawfully” keep and maintain exotic animals in a residential environment. Thompson ran an exotic animal exhibit on his farm and cared for all his animals, but how much attention could he possibly give to just one animal with such a large amount running around? For someone who seemed invested in the care of animals, he must have known that a confined space in a rural area was not an ideal living environment. It also presented dangers for the community that had dealt with escaped lions and tigers before.

In love, there is a saying that goes, “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back, they’re yours; if they don’t, they never were.” An animal lover should know better than to confine nature’s creatures. The truth of the matter is that wild animals will never come back if they’re set free–because that’s what they’re meant to be.

p.s. The state of Ohio has agreed to take action and enact stricter regulations on wild animals. Help make sure they keep their promise by signing this petition!