Ohio animal Terry Thompson owner shot himself - police


Jack Hanna, wild animal expert: ''To hear 18 Bengal tigers had to lose their lives... I'm still in disbelief''

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The owner of a private Ohio zoo from where dozens of exotic animals were set free died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the local sheriff has confirmed.

A post-mortem examination also showed that Terry Thompson was bitten by one of his animals, possibly a tiger, shortly after his death.

More than 50 animals - including lions, tigers, wolves and bears - were shot dead after being freed in Zanesville.

One monkey still at large may have have been eaten by a big cat, police say.

"We have had no reported sightings of anything, and it's a high probability that he could have been eaten by one of the big cats," Sheriff Matt Lutz told CBS News on Thursday morning.

'Volatile situation'

Officials said the "volatile situation" of animals escaping from the 73 acre (29 hectare) Muskingum County Animal Farm and the approach of nightfall on Tuesday had prompted the shoot-to-kill order.

Among those killed were 17 lions and 18 Bengal tigers.

Animals shot dead

  • 1 wolf
  • 6 black bears
  • 2 grizzly bears
  • 17 lions
  • 1 baboon
  • 3 mountain lions
  • 18 Bengal tigers

US nature TV host Jack Hanna said the killing of the tigers was especially tragic as there were only about 1,400 remaining in the world.

Six animals - three leopards, one grizzly bear and two monkeys - were captured and have been sent to the nearby Columbus Zoo.

Mr Hanna, a former director of Columbus Zoo, in the nearby Ohio state capital, said tranquilising animals in the dark was incredibly dangerous, and told reporters that "the sheriff did the right thing".

Sheriff's Deputy Jonathan Merry was one of the first to respond to the incident.

He shot a grey wolf and a black bear, firing his pistol as the bear charged at him. The policeman said the bear was about 7ft (2m) away when he killed it with a single round.

Lax regulation

At the height of the scare, police urged people in Zanesville to stay indoors and flashing signs along nearby highways told motorists: "Caution exotic animals" and "Stay in vehicle".

Several local school districts cancelled classes on Wednesday.

Escaped lion shot dead near Zanesville, Ohio (Pic: ABC TV) The shoot-to-kill order has been criticised, but also supported by one wildlife expert

"We didn't want kids waiting by the bus stop and seeing these big animals," Mr Lutz said.

Ohio has some of America's most lax regulation of exotic pets, reports say - and some of the country's highest rates of injuries and deaths caused by them.

Mr Lutz said his main concern was protecting the public in the largely rural area.

A neighbour of Mr Thompson, Danielle White, said the animal-keeper had been in legal trouble.

"He was in hot water because of the animals, because of permits, and [the animals] escaping all the time," Ms White said. A few weeks ago, she said, she had to avoid some camels grazing on the side of a freeway.

Mr Thompson had been released from federal prison three weeks earlier after serving a one-year term on firearms charges, according to the AFP news agency.

His farm was reportedly raided June 2008, seizing more than 100 guns.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    "Mr Thompson had been released from federal prison three weeks earlier after serving a one-year term on firearms charges.

    "His farm was reportedly raided June 2008, seizing more than 100 guns."

    And the defense of the right to bear firearms is self-protection?

    Why then 100 guns? And why was a felon allowed to keep 100 guns?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Probably everything will be justified in Republican (strong supporter of Gun-lobby) ruled Ohio and by the local Sharif's office in the name of budget limitation and cost cutting. Tranquilizer is more expensive (than bullet), then saving those animals also need extra money to keep them. So better to kill them in the name "public safety" and save some money- for poor Ohio and Muskingum County.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.


  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Thank God, there is not many exotic, beautiful wildlife in these Western countries, at least in USA. or wait? was there? These people probably killed them long ago, before others could notice it! Now they can go to those wild places to see the animals, local people are the bonus attraction (who can not shoot-to-kill).

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Nothing is written yet on why he shot himself and let the animals free?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The horrible slaughter of these exotic animals began during Britain's third world colonial era with Tiger hunts in India and big game shoot outs in Africa. Who are you to talk about saving animals. You can't even operate a decent Zoo as London's Regent Park is always begging for a hand out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    That man was an animal hoarder under the guise of a "private" zoo. The fact that he let them go knowing he was putting the animals and other people in danger just shows how selfish he was. Good riddance. But I feel bad for the animals. Cats and Dogs make wonderful pets people..Cats and dogs

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I really wonder when these "civilized" states lecture on protecting nature & animals in places in Asia & Africa- where unarmed, "uncivilized" people, their crops & livestock face daily threat from real wild lions, tigers and many other animals (not from any pleasure zoo by any rich idiot, in a stupid "civilized" country)!
    Should they not shoot-to-kill to protect their lives too???????

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    It is a shame that many US states do not regulate or, even worse, do not even know how many such private zoos are there. Many states do not have any regulation to keep such exotic engendered animals, which should be totally banned.
    Ex-Governor of Ohio, tried to ban/regulate it but new GOP Governor Kasich repealed that. Engendering public & animal safety for personal pleasure need to stop NOW.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I can barely comprehend this senseless slaughter of these poor animals. Including 18 rare Bengal tigers, it's so shocking I'm almost speechless!
    Just typical of Americans and their shoot at sight idiocy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    No one has given a reasonable explination as to why Traq's couldn't be used in a dark and stormy night! Like someone mentioned yesterday, did they just take pot shots in this dark and stormy night and happen to kill 48 of the 52 animals?

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I am heartbroken by this story.why was'nt tranquilizer guns used or were these beautiful animals shot by 'good old boys' that shoot little deer at the weekends? shame on you ohio

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Wow, it can't be everyday you get the chance to wipe out around 1% of an endangered species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The most important thing is that no human life was lost,with the exception of the animal collector.And he's the cause behind the events that followed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    This is so disgusting. I lay most of the blame with the Ohio government. This had better be a wake up call to them and they had better start making some strict laws. Individuals should not own these wild animals! There are other states that also need to outlaw this such as Florida.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I do not see how they can justify killing so many. The safety of the citizens is important, but people could have remained safely indoors while they used alternative methods to attempt capture. Shooting to kill should have been a final resort. It sounds like they went out and tried to see who could rack the biggest tally! This is so unbelievably sad and tragic what they have done!

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Why do we treat animals like animals?
    I agree, the safety of citizens comes first, but why is it the we humans think we have the right to capture; transport so far away from their natural habitat; hold into captivity and then simply end up murdering any beast? Wild or not the harm we do to them just for sport, will add up to the actions for which we will all be judged someday.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I live in Ohio about an hour from Zanesville. The sheriff was put in a no-win situation. By shooting the animals, he is criticized for killing them. Had he tried to tranquilize them and fail in his efforts resulting in human loss, he would have been equally criticized. The real tragedy is the man opening the cages before killing himself. He caused this. Why is no one realizing this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    It would be interesting to see how a similar situation would be handled in the UK. I reckon there would be much greater emphasis placed on the preservation of the animals aswell as a common sense approach to the safety of people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    So they shot the camels? How were they a threat? This story stinks


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