Lions, Wolves Roam Zanesville, Ohio Streets

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 19, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Terry Thompson, owner of an exotic animal preserve in Zanesville, Ohio, opened the cages to his animals and set them free Wednesday. He then fatally shot himself. What transpired next was a frantic operation conducted by local authorities. At least 25 exotic animals were shot and killed.

The animals killed include lions, wolves, bears and at least one tiger.

Thompson owned the 46-acre preserve. He also had a troubled past.

Authorities knew of the wild animal preserve for years. It didn't exactly have a storied reputation. The sheriff's department fielded multiple complaints against Thompson's preserve throughout the years.

The complaints ranged from animals being mistreated to animals running at large within the preserve.

Thompson was recently released from prison after serving a year and a day for federal crimes of possessing illegal firearms.

Many might wonder why authorities resorted to lethal force against the wild animals. For the most part, it's because it's difficult to effectively use tranquilizers at night, according to the New York Daily News.

So unfortunately, most of the exotic animals at Thompson's preserve was killed.

This incident is, however, helping to speed through legislation. Animals like lions, tigers, and monkeys are not regulated under Ohio law because they are non-native species. Federal laws on exotic animals tend to only apply to exhibitors and breeders, not preserve owners like Thompson. State officials are now hoping to get new laws on the books.

Any new legislation would be unable to mitigate tragedies like this one where exotic animals were shot and killed after being released. But it could help prevent future incidents. Officials are still investigating, but they believe Terry Thompson acted alone.

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