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Wildlife tragedy: 49 exotic animals killed in Ohio

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, October 20th, 2011 at 6:44 am in Wildlife.

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Dear readers:
Tuesday night, the owner of a private collection of 56 live wild animals near Zanesville, Ohio, released all of the animals from their cages and then killed himself. By Wednesday afternoon local authorities had killed 17 lions, 18 tigers, 2 grizzly bears, 6 black bears, 3 mountain lions, 2 wolves, and 1 baboon. What a tragedy.

I just received the following information from my friends at the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Galt, California. It explains a lot. /Gary


Private Ownership of Wild Animals Proves Catastrophic

(San Andreas, CA) — After the tragic news from Zanesville, Ohio, early Wednesday morning (Oct. 19), PAWS’ founders, Pat Derby and Ed Stewart, are once again urging states to enact emergency regulations restricting the sale and possession of dangerous wild animals for private ownership.

The owner of a wild animal collection, Terry Thompson, opened the gates to the cages of as many as 56 wild and exotic animals — including bears, cheetahs, chimps, orangutans, wolves, lions, camels, giraffes and a white Siberian tiger — prior to committing suicide. Mr. Thompson had recently served a year-long prison sentence on a weapons conviction and had been cited for animal abuse and neglect as well. According to local authorities, in the last six years police officials have been called to Mr. Thompson’s property 16 times for reports of animals at large, eight times for animal complaints and three times for animal cruelty.

“Today’s tragedy illustrates what PAWS has been advocating since our founding in 1984 — that it is critical to restrict private sector ownership of wild animals,” emphasizes Pat Derby.

“We see the terrible, and often deadly, results from these so-called private animal collections. PAWS has been involved with numerous rescues of animals who have suffered senselessly at these facilities. The animals are stuffed into rotting cages or filthy pens. They are more than likely malnourished and suffering from medical conditions,” Ed Stewart points out.

“In fact,” Pat Derby continues, “two of PAWS’ rescued bears, Winston and Boo Boo, came from Ohio. But the truth of the matter is that most of our saddest and worst rescues stories have their roots in these unregulated animal collections and breeding facilities. If we could ban private ownership completely, there may be hope that someday places like the PAWS sanctuary might not have to exist. That, ultimately, is our goal!”

“Perhaps the most puzzling factor in this tragedy is Thompson’s possession of cheetahs, orangutans and chimpanzees,” says Derby. “If the reports that we have seen are correct, we are particularly concerned about their origins since these are species that are not usually found in the private sector.”

Ed Stewart adds, “And to our knowledge, there are no breeders of cheetahs, chimps or orangutans allowed in the private sector. So, with the news of those species kept at the Muskingum County Animal Farm, we plan to investigate their origins. The question we want answered by the USDA and the Department of Fish and Wildlife is: Where did Mr. Thompson acquire these animals? We want to see the paper trail. Did they come from a zoo?  Did they cross state lines? Just where did they originate?”

Due to the efforts of PAWS, and collaborations with other animal protection and public safety organizations, most states have permitting policies and restrictions in place. In 1985 PAWS sponsored California Assembly Bill 1620, authored by then Assembly member Sam Farr, that virtually eliminated private ownership of exotic animals and standardized the permitting process. However, eight states still allow these types of private wild animal menageries.

The following states have little or no regulations or permit requirements:
Alabama … Idaho … Michigan … Montana … Nevada … North Carolina … South Carolina … West Virginia … Wisconsin …

PAWS urges citizens in the above listed states to write their state officials to ask that stronger regulations and bans be set in place to prevent more tragedies. PAWS is also launching a state and federal investigation into the source origin of these animals.

*** Since 1984, The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide appropriate, humane sanctuary for animals who have been the victims of the exotic and performing animal trades. You can find out more about this wonderful nonprofit organization at /Gary

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2 Responses to “Wildlife tragedy: 49 exotic animals killed in Ohio”

  1. Barbara Says:

    It is a little comforting to read no reference to these animals as “pets.” “Collection” was appropriate; perhaps more emphatic would be the word “entrapment.”

    The eyes of the cheetah summarized all regarding this type of animal abuse.

  2. Karen Says:

    I think that any police agency with exotic or dangerous animals in its jurisdiction should be required to have sedative dart guns on hand, and the officers should be well-trained in their use. Why did the Ohio police officials not have such dart guns and why were they not trained to use them properly?

    I understand that one dart was used, but the animal didn’t immediately fall over, so it was shot and killed. It takes some time for the sedative to take effect. Why didn’t the person using the dart gun understand that?

    Lack of equipment and training can’t be blamed on lack of previous knowledge of the animals existence. The news release from PAWS says, “in the last six years police officials have been called to Mr. Thompson’s property 16 times for reports of animals at large, eight times for animal complaints and three times for animal cruelty.” Clearly, the police knew the animals were there and that there was risk of them getting loose. They were not prepared and for no good reason. Rare animals died because of this.

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