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October 19, 2011 2:14 PM
Ohio sheriff: Only one monkey remains missing
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(CBS/AP)  Updated 7:50 p.m. ET
ZANESVILLE, Ohio - Sheriff's deputies shot nearly 50 wild animals -- including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions -- in a big-game hunt across the Ohio countryside Wednesday after the owner of an exotic-animal park threw their cages open and committed suicide in what appeared to be one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.
As homeowners nervously hid indoors, officers equipped with high-powered rifles and shoot-to-kill orders spread out through fields and woods to hunt down about 56 animals that had been set loose from the Muskingum County Animal Farm by its owner, Terry Thompson, before he shot himself to death Tuesday.
Animal bodies are seen scattered near a barn at the Muskingum County Animal Farm, near Zanesville, Ohio, Oct. 19, 2011. (Credit: WBNS)
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Muskingum County Sherriff Matt Lutz announced that of the 56 escaped animals, 48 were put down. They included 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, eight bears and a wolf, Lutz said. Six animals were captured alive and taken to the Columbus Zoo.
The two remaining loose animals at the time of the press conference were a monkey and a wolf. CBS affiliate WBNS Columbus reported shortly thereafter that the wolf has been shot and recovered by police.
That leaves only the monkey, which Lutz warned may carry herpes B. The director of the Columbus Zoo recommended that the monkey be shot and killed if spotted.
Lutz said that Thompson's widow was at the scene and has been cooperative.
Exotic animal farm owner had history of trouble
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"This was a very, very bad situation, [which] couldn't have been handled without everybody involved doing their job," said Lutz."
Schools closed, parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors, and flashing signs along highways told motorists, "Caution exotic animals" and "Stay in vehicle."
"It's like Noah's Ark, like, wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio," said Jack Hanna, TV personality and former director of the Columbus Zoo. "Noah's Ark filled with tigers and lions and all leopards and a few monkeys and whatever, and it crashes here, and all of a sudden they're out there."
Hanna said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic. There are only about 1,400 of the endangered cats left in the world, he said.
"When I heard 18 I was still in disbelief," he said. "The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is."
Terry Thompson stands with some of his award-winning Percheron horses on his farm west of Zanesville, Ohio, August 2008. (Credit: Chris Crook,AP Photo/Zanesville Times Recorder)
Neighbor Danielle White, whose father's property abuts the Muskingum County Animal Farm, said she didn't see loose animals this time but did in 2006, when a lion escaped.
"It's always been a fear of mine knowing (the owner) had all those animals," she said. "I have kids. I've heard a male lion roar all night."
Officers in the mostly rural area about 55 miles east of Columbus were under orders to shoot to kill for fear that animals hit with tranquilizer darts would run off and hide in the darkness.
The owner of the preserve, Terry Thompson, left the cages open and the fences unsecured, releasing dozens of animals, including lions, tigers, bears and wolves, before committing suicide, said Lutz.
The sheriff would not speculate why Thompson killed himself and why he left open the cages and fences at his 73-acre preserve, dooming the animals he seemed to love so much.
Thompson had had repeated run-ins with the law, and Lutz said the sheriff's office had received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals at the property. Thompson had gotten out of federal prison just last month after pleading guilty to possessing unregistered guns.
"This is a bad situation," the sheriff said. "It's been a situation for a long time."
The sheriff said his office started getting calls Tuesday evening that wild animals were loose just west of Zanesville on a road that runs under Interstate 70. He said deputies with rifles went to the animal preserve, where they found Thompson dead and all the cages open. Several aggressive animals were near his body and had to be shot, the sheriff said.
Lutz said his main concern was protecting the public in the area, where homes sit on large lots of sometimes 10 acres. Nearby Zanesville has a population of about 25,000.
"If the animals looked like they were going (out of the property), I told (deputies), 'Put them down,'" said Lutz, as reported by WBNS.
Hanna defended the sheriff against criticism that the animals should have been captured alive.
"What was he to do at nighttime with tigers and lions, leopards, going out there?" Hanna said. "In the wild this would be a different situation."
The preserve in Zanesville had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears. Lutz called the animals very big and aggressive but said a caretaker told authorities they had been fed on Monday.
White, the preserve's neighbor, said Thompson had repeatedly been in legal trouble.
"He was in hot water because of the animals, because of permits, and (the animals) escaping all the time," White said. A few weeks ago, she said, she had to avoid some camels that were grazing on the side of a freeway.
At a nearby Moose Lodge, Bill Weiser said: "It's breaking my heart, them shooting those animals."
Bailey Hartman, a night manager at a McDonald's, also said it saddened her that the animals were shot. But she said, "I was kind of scared coming in to work."
Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them. In 2010, an animal caretaker was killed by a bear at a property in Cleveland.
On Wednesday, the Humane Society of the United States criticized Gov. John Kasich for allowing a statewide ban on the buying and selling of exotic pets to expire in April. The organization urged the state to immediately issue emergency restrictions.
"How many incidents must we catalog before the state takes action to crack down on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals?" Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO, said in a statement.
© 2011 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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by PatElka October 20, 2011 9:01 AM EDT
I agree this is a tragic situation! Ohio has some of the worst laws in place protecting animals. Although these are exotic animals, I think it must start with companion animals. Violent crimes to our companion animals MUST BE FELONIES to set the tone of intolerance. NITRO'S LAW HB108 is the legacy and testament in honor of a family's Rottweiler, Nitro, who was 1 of 8 dogs that were starved to death at a K9 training facility by their very own trainer in Youngstown, Ohio. This law was created as a felony provision and proactive legislative measure to increase the outdated misdemeanor-only penalties currently in place for violent animal crimes in Ohio. NOTHING speaks louder than the voice of a voter in the district. PLEASE take a quick moment to contact your Ohio House and Senate member. You can learn more about Nitro Foundation HB 70 Law in Ohio by visiting their facebook page or Make the penalties stiffer for animal abuse!
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by betaboston October 20, 2011 8:46 AM EDT
This was a big time hunt ! Again this is America .Here we have night vision ,helicopters , infrared , and trust me an investigation would reveal that there were way more tranquilizers available then they are saying .There were no need to kill all of those animals ,period !If that had happen in Manhattan i would understood and still i guarantee that many of those animals would have been saved .
I now question Jack Hanna love for the animals . If i was in charge the order would have been " Tranquilize and follow them ,if attacked ,shoot to kill ,If tranquilizer fail shoot to disable " .I doubt that those animals attacked a single person .
I am confident that someone who is honest and a real animal lover and worked with the cops will come forward and speak out about this abuse .So, they had 4 tranquilizer guns ! That to me equals to at least 8 animals saved or more .I guess i know more than Jack Hanna !
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by dot92141 October 20, 2011 11:03 AM EDT
YOUneed to consider the mentality of these redneck killers.
by bajajohn1 October 20, 2011 2:52 AM EDT
Are they related?
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by mikedev75 October 20, 2011 1:47 AM EDT
Why have authorities allowed this wackjob to be a caretaker to all these wild and dangerous animals.
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by Charly440 October 19, 2011 10:46 PM EDT
"sheriff" matt lutz and his bois' had a who'down shootin' spree with all the trimmins' WHHOOOOEEEEE!! Yea!!: Killing DEFENSLESS Animals who were not attacking anyone. You see "here com' th' sheriff" in his African Safari Hunting Hat and garb feigning mr.toughguy as his overfed minions huddle around to accept "credit"
Those Beautiful Animals were killed/Murdered and their souls AUTOMATICALLY went to Heaven.
I give you one guess where the "tough shootin" lutz and his Goons' souls are going when they have to meet our maker.....
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by legalbutnotjust October 19, 2011 11:15 PM EDT
HEY, charly440


Most physicians at the American Psychological Association and the doctors who practice a thing called psychiatry, and pretty much any medical person, will all tell you that humans find it easier to dispense of non-humans for the very reason your comment appears to contradict- the notion that animals, unlike humans, have no soul.

Animals, a soul. It's ridiculous... in the sense that if we, as a society, felt animals have souls like ourselves, we'd be a lot more squeamish about killing them and eating their meat than we actually are. Even everyday pets, dogs, cats, hamsters, are not believed to have souls. Because if they all have "souls," what does that make us? Think about it?
by gadfly65 October 19, 2011 10:37 PM EDT
I'm also disgusted by those who are criticizing law enforcement for their handling of this emergency; blame the deranged animal hoarder and legislators who neglected to regulate him.
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by gadfly65 October 19, 2011 10:32 PM EDT
This is disgusting - we need more stringent regulations on possession of exotic animals.
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by legalbutnotjust October 19, 2011 10:39 PM EDT
You are correct, it is very disgusting. Most disgusting of all is the kooky nut who let them all loose, not caring what happened later. The only thing that might've done the animals any justice before they were slaughtered, is if they all got a good piece of him before he killed himself. Or better yet, if he tried using the animals as hostages....that way he at least would have went down like they did later, but the animals would've at least gotten to watch it. Eye for an eye, isn't that what we're all about?
by legalbutnotjust October 19, 2011 10:43 PM EDT
I'm technically incorrect, they could've just gotten a good chunk of him and he would've solved his own suicide without having to do anything more, provided the animals hated him enough, or at least had the instinct to know their numbers were up next.
by imnho October 19, 2011 10:24 PM EDT
It is sad that the police killed the anamals. it was also necessary. If the tigers were to make it to a hide spot and night fell someone could easily be eaten.
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by mikexxxxx October 19, 2011 10:20 PM EDT
Sounds like murder to me. Way too quick to call it suicide, IMO. the guy had enemies all around him.
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by legalbutnotjust October 19, 2011 10:16 PM EDT
What this forum needs badly is for someone who is a veterinary anesthesiologist (if that's spelled correctly) or even a wildlife biologist to weigh in, and answer this question: Was it realistic for the cops to think that they could wait for enough chemical agents to arrive that would knock out 40 big cats, giraffes, camels and bears, wolves and a monkey?

In other words, by the time that amount of stuff got there, is it likely that the animals would have still been there, instead of having left the property and gone off into who knows where else?
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