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Four Dozen Dead in Ohio

Written by PETA | October 19, 2011

Zanesville, Ohio, sheriff’s deputies armed with assault rifles opened fire on dozens of “mature, very big, aggressive” lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, and bears who had escaped from a private menagerie in Ohio after the farm’s owner, Terry Thompson, was found dead and the animals’ cage doors were left open and fences unsecured. Primates were found locked in cages inside the house. 48 animals were killed.


Thompson had a long history of brushes with the law and had just completed a one-year sentence on two federal counts of possessing illegal firearms. In November 2005, Thompson was convicted of, among other things, cruelty to animals and was subsequently sentenced to six months of house arrest and fined $2,870. PETA had filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding Thompson’s illegal activities, including exhibiting animals without a license and declawing tiger cubs in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.

Ohio has no regulations governing the ownership of exotic and dangerous animals. Exotic animals all over the state languish without adequate food, water, and veterinary care. They eat rotten scraps, drink algae-laden water, and spend their days pacing on feces- and urine-encrusted dirt. Just last April, Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to extend an emergency ban on exotic animals in the state, which was put in place by his predecessor. PETA has campaigned for an outright ban for many years.

Please join PETA in asking the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to exercise its authority to declare emergency regulations to prohibit the keeping of exotic animals and also seize the animals over whom the agency has jurisdiction and see that they are placed in reputable sanctuaries.


Written by Jennifer O’Connor

Commenting is closed.
  • brad fields says:

    Hello, The Owens environmental club will be hosting its annual environmental fair April 18th 11-2. This is an awesome opportunity to get new volunteers and to get the word out about your organization. This event is totally free and there will be free food for you to eat. It will be located in the math and science hallway the same place as last year. If you need a map please let me know or if you have any more questions please feel free to ask me. Thank you so much and have a wonderful day. Peace&Love

  • Philipp says:

    Of course it is mad to let a person with such a record/background on animal abuse to have so many animals, but to those thinking about the use of tranquilisers: they take a while to work and during that time the animal can do quite a lot of damage. Furthermore, whilst PETA has the correct idea of protecting animals, they are never going to improve the situation for animals. Their comments are ironic and thoughtless, and it would be best if they leave animal safety and protection to professionals. Merci, and In case this comment does not make it to the forum in it’s full version, oh well, I wouldn’t have expected PETA to be any better anyway. If they do, thumbs up on that one.

  • Gene Sengstake says:

    Exotic animals of any kind should not be allowed to be privately held – nor is there really any reason to have them in zoos – circuses – or any other kind of public access display. Animals deserve to be in their own native habitat and it’s unfortunate that the human population is destroying what is left of that. On a daily basis thousand of acres that animals call home are logged – developed – or destroyed in some manner or another. Animals – wether wild caught or privately bred – do not deserve the fate of being under the control of human beings. If the people in authority were not so stupid – ignorant – and out of touch with the reality of what is happening in their state – things like this tragedy in Ohio would not have happened – – –

  • rhsjr says:

    While this was a horrible tragedy, before you are to harsh on the local law enforcement, imagine abused bears and tiger running loose in your arewa like they were in mine. I wish they didn’t have to kill any of them but an abused wild animal may have posed a threat to anyone in their way. We were locked down in our house and could not go outside. We need to focus on stopping the people who own these animals and get of the law enforcements back on this.

  • gemma australia says:

    I am greatly saddened by these beautiful animals being killed. It is logical to tranquilise them and have them put in other zoos these animals did not harm anyone. Ironic humans killed out of fear when it was the animals that needed to fear the humans-the most violent creatures of all(and in this case stupid) god bless their souls x

  • Cristina Fernanfes says:

    I also feel that they should have used tranquilizers, to then move them to a nacional park. It´s not the animals fault that some psyco had them caged up in a comunity full of people. The more i know people the more i like animals!

  • Natasja Mariën says:

    Tranquillizers??? Dont they know what this is? What did they kill them for? I live in Belgium and I was choked when I saw this on the news. Such idiots how can thay just shoot them whitout thinking?

  • Claudine Tucker says:

    The police acted quickly for the safety of the community, something Mr. Terry Thompson was out to attack due to his devastatingly stressful life situation. His many exotic pets must have felt the burden of his extreme tax debts, his depression at being separated, his hostility towards the community and his year in prison. Animals sense when their owners are stressed. His failure to be able to climb up the hill on his own property to feed cattle and bison resulted in their starving to death. With all that land, he had some animals caged in too small, filthy spaces. He needed help not only to maintain his menagerie, he needed social help and mental health help. The state should have removed his exotic animals for the animal abuse case as well as his on going debt. His unconscionable reaction to all his repressed anger and alienation from the community was a tragic accident in the making. His mental illness was more dangerous than any disease the animals may have caught from malnutrition. There is a need, maybe more so now with this economy, for an agency that can oversea, help supervise people who own and house wild, exotic animals. If someone could have coordinated how to contain these animals with a ready plan for any emergency, or give support to Mr. Thompson in the way of extra meat from a grocery store that is throwing out day-old meats, or a hot-line where he could talk to someone who would know more about what he may have been going through, in dealing with his circumstances, it might have helped this not be such a tragedy. Businesses and homes are usually equipped with emergency plans and techniques to accommodate emergencies. Why are there no techniques and engineers coming up with ideas in such cases where someone has one, two, 56 some big cats, wolves, and bears? There should be a limit in personal ownership, especially if it is found that the grounds are not even used to let the animals stretch their legs on it. Things like netting, large moats (as zoos have) could be dug out, supplies of meats already injected with tranquilizers could be kept in freezers. A tiger acts hostile when darted because his intent is to find food and safety, and it is not natural to relax when focused on escape. If food/meats could have been thrown out, I wonder if that would not have relaxed the tigers more naturally. If they had been injected with tranquilizers, the tigers then could have been darted once they relaxed. In the dead of night, the police had nothing to help them contain the cats except their guns and were advised to use them. I hope there are lessons to be learned and that they will be applied with more thought. If not, I agree with Helin in that there really is little hope for these animals when such carelessness is being exercised from all sides of the spectrum.

  • Jade says:

    I just found out that we have wild cats (lions, and others) here in Lancaster, Ohio as well at a place called Rescure-One. Was in the local paper about them… I have lived here all my lofe and had no idea there was a place. Hopefully they keep locked up.. don’t wanna see them get killed..

  • Debbie says:

    I am so glad to hear that there are other people that feel the same way I do about shooting/murdering those gorgeous animals. There are no rational excuses for such barbaic neanderthal behavior. This is the USA 2011. We are suppose to be a civilized,just,fair and caring nation. What a joke! I am ashamed and equally broken hearted about how things were handled from begining to the end. In the bible God says we are supposed to care for our creatures, not abuse, torture or hunt them for pure sadistic pleasure. Those officals who were involved in this massacre should be made an example of “Eye for an Eye” (wishful thinking). They should be hunted down and shot and at the very very least lose their jobs, fined and sentenced to prison time. Thet could have just as easily tranquilized them as shoot them. These animals could have been transferred to zoos, rescues, sanctuaries.. What a shame and what a waste. I hope those officals got their jollies and cannot sleep at night.

  • Susan R says:

    I live in Ohio and don’t condone what happened in ANY way, but the Sherriff’s dept. are not “slack-jawed neanderthals”. They did not want these animals roaming around IN THE DARK endangering the community and felt they did the best they could under the circumstances. Our laws & regulations here about owning ‘exotic” animals are almost nonexistent and Mr.Thompson should never have had them in the first place. NO, Catherine, he was not supplying them for game shooting, he was just an animal collector who supposedly thought of them as “pets”, as did his wife. He went haywire, let them all loose, then committed suicide.

  • vincenzo says:


  • Kigy says:

    The way these unprofessional, incompetent “law enforcement officers” conducted themselves in this case is as bad as the FBI when they massacred the unarmed men women and children in Waco in 1993. These animals could have been tranquilized and sent to sanctuaries instead these slack jawed neadrathals just couldn’t wait to get out their shiny guns and go on a big game hunt. All of the pieces of garbage that took part in this massacre should have their badges and guns taken away and put into an enclosure with animals of the same species that they slaughtered who would give them the justice that they so richly deserve.

  • Kigy says:

    The way these unprofessional, incompetent “law enforcement officers” conducted themselves in this case is as bad as the FBI when they massacred the unarmed men women and children in Waco in 1993. These animals could have been tranquilized and sent to sanctuaries instead these slack jawed neadrathals just couldn’t wait to get out their shiny guns and go on a big game hunt. All of the pieces of garbage that took part in this massacre should have their badges and guns taken away and put into an enclosure with animals of the same species that they slaughtered who would give them the justice that they so richly deserve.

  • Carrie Melas says:

    Yes, how stupid of the authorities ordering the animals to be shot when tranquilisers could have well been used and then taken to sanctuaries – thank God that these do exist! It was a great loss… As for domesticating animals , it can be possible but not just anyone can do it. Because, yes,wild animals are not ment, cannot and must not be caged. If proper environment can be provided they can be tamed through love and affection and basically if this is given to them at a very early age, actually when they are still cubs. I am not suggesting that they may be taken from their mother! That would be horrific! I’m suggesting that cubs having been found motherless, could be taken in and try to raise them with loving care (and of course with special guidance and medical care from veterinarians,and living conditions and etc. should be checked by people having special knowledge like those working in sanctuaries) among human beings. Maybe a task like that,could put in a helping hand in the saving of endangered animals. But I’m afraid such a task needs a lot of work and research and rules, regulations laws and orders etc. to make it possible. It would be paradise if people could one day live peacefully and “side by side” with all the animals in the world, not just dogs and cats and all those domesticated. But on the other hand, lets see first, that these poor domesticated animals are not so viciously abused and tortured and lets be content or maybe even thankful that there are sanctuaries for these wild animals provided by the states. AND LOTS OF THANKS TO PETA FOR EVERYTHING.

  • Helin says:

    And they won’t stop rambling about endangered animals. It is a real irony… what they say and what they do! It makes no sense why would one with such power refuse to do such rather small thing for the animals, especially endangered ones. I see no hope for these creatures as long as careless people exist.

  • SUZIE TUCKER says:


  • c.c.m. says:

    questions of day … to those who say the officers did the only thing they could do in order to save human lives…when did we decide that human life was more important than animal life? and why is that the first thing we decide is important? Wouldn’t they think their life is important too? After all we’re the ones destroying this planet – were not better because the animals can’t communicate with us and only attack us because were such a violent and scary people. What if one day there were no animals left just humans because of people like Terry Thompson. I say our creator created all the animals and humans to live together harmoniously. We don’t have the right to cage animals. They were given the right to be here free as much as we were. I say were such a #@$%ed up society when we always think of ourselves first. This planet is so full of selfish people and I really hope those of us that are more enlightened can even out all the bad apples so that our planet doesn’t fall out of orbit.

  • sun_ski says:

    I was following this story and it broke my heart every step of the way, to the way these animals lived to the way they died. I only hope that this tragedy brings to light the atrocity of exotic animals living in captivity and pushes states to make it illegal. P.s. and why oh why couldn’t they tranquilize the animals and bring them to Ohio zoo, who was on hand. Okay, not the wild, but not being gunned down either

  • Tayler casonzi says:

    this is such a ******* tragedy to such a beautiful animal. i bet the sheriffs couldnt wait to shoot down these magnificent beasts. How come they didnt use a tranquilizer???? these beasts are endangered and they had themselves a little hunting spree. How stupid humans are to domesticate exotic animals. They are meant to roam the vast lands of their habitats, not to pace back and forth staring at iron bars day in and day out.