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Cory Butcher

Exotic Animals Escape Muskingum County (OH) Animal Farm

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Approximately 48 exotic animals believed to be roaming free in Zanesville. Crews from The Wilds and The Columbus Zoo have been dispatched to help contain the wild animals. This makes my stomach turn.

From the Associated Press: http://www.google.co...0c570aeec22b691

Exotic animals escape Ohio farm; owner found dead

By ANDY BROWNFIELD, Associated Press – 3 hours ago

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — Dozens of animals escaped Tuesday from a wild-animal preserve that houses bears, big cats and other beasts, and the owner later was found dead there, said police, who shot several of the animals and urged nearby residents to stay indoors.

The fences had been left unsecured at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, in east-central Ohio, and the animals' cages were open, police said. They wouldn't say what animals escaped but said the preserve had lions, wolves, tigers, giraffes, camels and bears. They said bears and wolves were among 25 animals that had been shot and killed and there were multiple sightings of exotic animals along a highway.

"These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa," Sheriff Matt Lutz warned at a press conference.

He called the escaped animals "mature, very big, aggressive" but said a caretaker told authorities the preserve's 48 animals had been fed on Monday. He said police were patrolling the 40-acre farm and the surrounding areas in cars, not on foot, and were concerned about big cats and bears hiding in the dark and in trees.

"This is a bad situation," Lutz said. "It's been a situation for a long time."

Lutz said his office started getting phone calls at about 5:30 p.m. that wild animals were loose just west of Zanesville on a road that runs under Interstate 70.

He said four deputies with assault rifles in a pickup truck went to the animal farm, where they found the farm's owner, Terry Thompson, dead and all the animal cage doors open. He didn't say how Thompson died.

The deputies, who saw many animals standing outside their cages and others that had escaped past the fencing surrounding the property, began shooting them. They said there had been no reports of injuries among the public.

Staffers from the Columbus Zoo went to the scene, hoping to tranquilize and capture the animals.

Lutz said people should stay indoors and he might ask for local schools to close Wednesday. He said his main concern was protecting the public.

"Any kind of cat species or bear species is what we are concerned about," Lutz said. "We don't know how much of a head start these animals have on us."

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which usually handles native wildlife, such as deer, said state Division of Wildlife officers were helping the sheriff's office cope with the exotic animals.

"This is, I would say, unique," spokeswoman Laura Jones said.

In the summer of 2010, an animal caretaker was killed by a bear at a property in Cleveland. The caretaker had opened the bear's cage at exotic-animal keeper Sam Mazzola's property for a routine feeding.

Though animal-rights activists had wanted Mazzola charged with reckless homicide, the caretaker's death was ruled a workplace accident. The bear was later destroyed.

This summer, Mazzola was found dead on a water bed, wearing a mask and with his arms and legs restrained, at his home in Columbia Township, about 15 miles southwest of Cleveland.

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Why would they shoot the animals and not tranquilize them. Good think Columbus Zoo showed up.

I don't know about where you live, but I don't think the local police here carry around tranquilizers in their car to take down bears and lions. They're first priority is protecting the people. If that requires shooting the bear before the Zoo can get there, then that's what happens. I can bet those animals just weren't sitting around patiently waiting on the zoo to get there to tranquilize them.

On another note.. this is a travesty. I am a huge wildlife person. To see this happens horrifies me, one from the standpoint that animals are on the loose, and two, because animals have to die because of what appears to be one man's carelessness.

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That makes me sick cops started shooting the animals...glad Columbus Zoo is on it and I hope they can round them up, especially the tigers since there isn't many of them left in the wild :(

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Unfortunate situation, but from the multiple reports it there have been numerous issues with this individual and facility. Schools are closed in the area today because of the situation and the fact that various big cats are loose as well as bears and wolfs. Not a safe situation and the law enforcement must do what is necessary, even if it means shooting the animals.

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Put yourself in the city's situation. You see a lion roaming through a subdivision and you don't have a tranquelizer gun, are you going to let him prowl, maybe break through someone's sliding glass door and murder innocent people? Or are you going to be rational and shoot the lion and protect the public?

Also, they attempted to tranquelize a tiger and he became very agitated and came after the officers? I guess the officer should surrender to the tiger.

I understand people's stance here, but in my opinion saving a couple lions/wolfs/bears/tigers is not worth the loss of one human life.

It's unfortunate that the preserves owner is dead, he should have been punished to the full extent of the law.

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^^ Right, tranquilizers don't work the way movies would have us believe, like crazy, immediate knockout potion. Plus, imagine if your pet dog or your child couldn't go outside for fear that a literal lion might pounce on it. Obviously I believe maintaining as many of the animals' lives as possible is the best scenario, but it's naive to think it works that easily. The fact that schools are closed should be a message in and of itself - it isn't safe to be outside. Sure it's a very Jumanji situation, but think of how serious this is to the people involved. A nightmare.

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How horrible for those animals... first they spent their lives in captivity, then when uncaged they are gunned down.

Terrible :-(

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Also, they attempted to tranquelize a tiger and he became very agitated and came after the officers? I guess the officer should surrender to the tiger.

FYI, from the words of the Sheriff when he was on TV just awhile ago, the tiger ran from them when it was shot with the tranquilizer so the cops shot the poor thing to death. I think the cops were trigger happy cause sounds like the wolves were shot while they were still on property and wolves are very skittish animals for the most part to begin with, they would rather not have anything to do with humans.

If its the same Thompson my dad often spoke of, he used to live in Hamilton with tigers near where I grew up. He moved away to get away from the pesky neighbors.

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^

Sounds like this Thompson was a pesky neighbor himself with multiple instances of his animals getting loose. Also if you watch some of the news coverage Jack Hanna agreed with the shoot to kill order in dealing with this situation.

As of right now 48 of 56 animals have been taken down and only 1 remains on the loose. A monkey who has been confirmed to be carrying Herpes B.

Honestly sounds like even if all of these animals were rescued they sound as if they were in pretty bad shape. Watch some of the videos and Jack Hanna is pretty fired up with this situation and that people are even allowed to gather collections like this.

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I don't like people having these as personal pets either cause you have a lot of ignorant people out there who know nothing about animals and animal behavior. Of course they're cute as babies, but babies get bigger.

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Guest rcfreak339

The sheriff is now saying that the owner deliberately freed the animals and then committed suicide. See stories by the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press via the UK's Guardian. This whole thing is the top story right now on Google News, which has over 1,000 stories about it.

If you want to kill yourself, that's your own thing. But, to purposefully put others in harms way is just a selfish, selfish way to go.

faeriewench, I understand your want to help keep the animals safe, but think reasonably here. If 50 exotic animals such as lions and monkeys escape into a small town what do you think the first thought of some first responders would be? Definitely not "Lets just make sure all the animals are okay."

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Most who commit suicide are not thinking rationally. This is a sad story all the way around, everyone and thing loses.

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It's been crazy. I've spent 19 of the last 24 hours here at the assignment desk, and in my 7 years in the news business I've never had to deal with anything like this. I was chatting with Cory for a while last night about it, but it's completely surreal to have to remind your crews in the field to watch out for bears and big cats.

Mr. Thompson knew he was facing more jailtime, he was in the process of separating from his wife, and knew that the state would likely be taking his animals soon. He was desperate and not thinking clearly, but probably couldn't imagine living without his wife or his animals.

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Nobody should be willing to make comments and judgements without knowing the facts involved. I'm mentioning this not because of KICentral but because of comments I have read on other sites. That being said, animals cannot simply be introduced to new habitats in facilities such as The Columbus Zoo, The Wilds, etc. due to the possibility of contaminating the previously housed animals with diseases. This is not impossible, it just requires careful planning.

Now, please consider the sheriffs options for a moment. Do you give conditions an opportunity to change? At that moment, you have an opportunity to prevent people from getting injured ( or God forbid, worse ) either by an incident involving an attack, mauling or a traffic accident, etc. with a rare and seriously dangerous animal that most people do not understand. Keep in mind that you would have people getting injured trying to hunt or catch these animals on their own as well. And EVERY animal has some degree of danger. The key is to recognize how One species can harm you over another. Getting back to my point, if the local law enforcement had taken no action and someone did end up getting hurt the question then would have been "Why did you do nothing when the animal was in your sight and you still had control." Muskingum is lucky to have an official who is not afraid to make the hard decisions....popular or not.

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The Columbus Zoo is currently housing the 3 leopards (a baby and breeding pair), a juvenile grizzly, and 2 macaques (monkeys). These are all under quarantine in a special area of the zoo's hospital. The zoo currently doesn't house any other macaques, but other zoos have reached out to house these animals once healthy. The zoo does have a pair of leopards in their African Forest region. They have also been long planning to begin a program to take in abandoned juvenile bears in their 3 large bear yards in the North America region. I wouldn't be surprised, so long as he's healthy, if they bear stayed.

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