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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.
  • trisha from ohio says:

    These animals did not ESCAPE they were set free before he killed himself. The upsetting and wrong thing was that some of the animals shot and killed were not even off the property, they were right near their cages and still fenced in!!! I am a local person and it is a shame the sherrif that ordered shoot to kill was very out of line! Humans are a disgrace. The public was not in danger. The animals were not attacking.

  • J.M. says:

    My God….I want to cry over this story!!!!!….Those poor animals were just standing outside their cages, frightened, when they were shot….18 TIGERS????? OMG-there are so few tigers left in the world and we kill them for nothing???? All because some hick cops do not know how to deal with an emergency situation…PLEASE PETA-make OHIO accountable for this, change their laws!!!! Those innocent, beautiful, animals….you deserved better. :O(

  • Audrey says:

    As an Ohioan, I am OUTRAGED that this has been allowed to occur, and that our state government did nothing until it came to simply allowing (and justifying) local government to just plain shoot these innocent creatures.

  • anon says:

    don’t blame the authorities. blame the politicians. these wild animals were habituated to human contact and would have had no issue with running down a small child or adult and kill. zanesville is a small town – to imagine that a single tranq gun was in the city before this incident is unlikely. human lives come before animal lives, no matter the cost.

  • Sarah D says:

    I am disgusted, outraged, and numb from what just happened In Ohio. Couldn’t they tranquilize them and remove them to Zoo’s?? In Steve Irwin’s memory, really he would be so sad as I am. It just shows the lack of intelligence and lack of education that exemplifies the united states population. I don’t know how the officers that killed the animals will sleep tonight. It wasn’t the animals fault .

  • Winterfern says:

    I live close to this area. First, a tranquilized animal does not go down immediately. Some run, and since this all started as the day was ending Tuesday, they would have been lost in the dark, making them harder and more dangerous to capture. It is a terrible, terrible thing. I don’t understand if the guy wanted to kill himself, why did he let the animals go first. He had to have known they would be killed. As for shooting them, if one of those animals had mauled or killed a child I think you would have looked at law enforcements actions a little differently. At least I hope you would.

  • Dakota says:

    I’m an Ohio citizen and I absolutely agree with you, PETA! This state has barely ANY laws on the control and regulation of exotic animals. A perfect example of this is the Mt. Hope exotic animal auction that is held every year. If PETA decides to start a campaign, I’m behind you 100%!

  • LadyBluez says:

    I can not stop thinking about these animals. They were scared and confused. Please PETA do something.. What is PETA’s view on this sad situation?

  • yvonne marie says:

    These situations are happening to often!!!! police need to be trained in handeling wildlife. I’m very upset at this!!!!! MY DEEPEST SYMPATHY TO ALL THAT WERE LOST!!! 🙁

  • Susan says:

    I just cannot believe this just happened in USA. Where is your humanity I have always admired? I am from Slovakia and so shocked! Such a great country and allows something like this happened! I am just so dissapointed.

  • Lexi says:

    I am extremely upset. No animal should be treated in such ways. Even the smallest of animals. I think that the police should have used their brains, and at this moment I’m not even sure if they have any. Why didn’t they just tranquilize the innocent animals and relocate them. I heard that they didn’t want to tranquilize the animals because they didn’t have large enough bins for transportation. That is the biggest joke I have ever heard. Pure laziness. I have never felt such a pain in my chest as I do today. This is very upsetting. Do justice, PETA.

  • Jessica says:

    Wow, this story has been bugging since I heard the animals were let loose! I CANNOT believe that these animals are being killed. There are many other ways to catch them! They are exotic, wild animals that have no say and have no clue themselves what is going on! They are probably more scared than the actual people. I cannot believe what they are doing right now to these innocent, poor animals. PETA please do something!

  • Kim says:

    I see the “Good Ole Boys” are just having the TIME of their lives … hunting big game, no restrictions .. this whole affair is an OUTRAGE and it makes me sick.

  • Kelli says:

    The local news hasn’t shown any stories regarding our point of view. I’ve only seen “shoot to kill”. I’m disgusted.

  • Doug says:

    I’m upset about the loss of life among animals who were already victims of human abuse and neglect, but the local police were put in an impossible situation: dozens of dangerous animals loose shortly before dark. Police tried to tranquilize a tiger, with terrible results. They were not equipped to handle the situation with what they had at the moment and had to act fast. They seem to have made the most sensible–if terrible–choice. If we are to be angry, it should be with the nut job who collected these animals without being able to properly care for them. Ban amateur ownership of exotic animals!

  • Debra says:

    I am furious and sickened about these events. When I heard about this story I came directly here in hopes that PETA will fight for the poor, innocent, beautiful exotic animals that were inhumanely murdered, just because they wee released by the owner into the wild. I am sure there was some other way they could have contacted someone that could assist them and knew how to handle this situation. So many beautiful animals just murdered for exploring which could have been the only time they were ever in the wild. You don’t have to shoot giraffes.. Come on that’s sick. They probably enjoyed the thrill of hunting them and fining them down when they weren’t even aware. I wish the lion would have taken the guy who shot him with him. I am enraged and hope they don’t get away with this blood bath massacre.

  • Dianne says:

    I am saddened and shocked by the incident in Ohio. I cannot believe that no attempt was made to at least try to recapture those beautiful animals and try to give them a better life. I am very saddened that they were just hunted down and shot. It was not their fault to be in captivity and the whole thing is so irresponsible.

  • Kori says:

    I am completely offended. As an Ohioan who lives really close to Zanesville, I’m ashamed that our state hasn’t taken any action to help out these poor animals. And what bothers me more are there are pictures roaming facebook of these animals bodies! They’re just laying there, in the rain and mud pools. Probably been dragged there. If we killed humans that were considered ‘threats’ and did this to them, wouldn’t there be so much outrage!? There were more humane ways to do all this. And this man should have never been allowed to own these animals!

  • Cheri says:

    The man commited suicide! He let the animals go a big “middle finger” to the area. He knew EXACTLY what would happen to them. If he really cared, he would have left them in their cages/secured areas so they may have had a chance. Better yet, dialed 911 before he killed himself so authorities were on site quickly to care for the animals. This whole story sickens me!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jason Wilcoxson says:

    I’m sure the Good ‘Ol Boys in Ohio had one heck of a time riding around in pickups on their once-in-a-lifetime big game hunt. The rationale they had for not using tranquilizer darts made less sense than a Khadafi speech. Like- they might go hide after getting hit with a dart. Well how about using an effective dose unless it’s too diffficult for their small minds to calculate that amount or consult with an expert. Or- the loose mEvery single person who was involved in that hunt should be made to pay for what they’ve done- one way or another. How would they like it if the tables were turned on them?

  • mrlee says:

    from what i heard on the news reports this sick sob shot himself but before he did he opened the cages there is absolutly no reason why they could not be tranqulized as far as keeping exotics in captivity in this insane society in witch we live im afraid that there must be a santuary where these poor unfortunate creatures can spend the rest of there days (not in cages) in an environment close to there own natural habitat with minimal human intervention

  • LD says:

    I live in the area, there was not 1 report of the animals aggressing toward any humans. The Sheriff ordered for the animals to be shot on sight! They went into the house, guns blazing mowing down all animals in sight. They also went on a hunt and shot them at close range. Locally, it is being reported 44 of the 48 animals were shot dead !! They are hiding behind the local Columbus Zoo Emeritus “Jack Hannah” and justifying their decisions! They did not even attempt to capture first. They went out with assault rifles and began their killing spree. This is horrendous how this was handled !! Someone needs to be held accountable. Please PETA get the ball rolling!

  • PETAman says:

    This is a very sad story… I cannot believe Thompson, as an animal lover, would take his life and allow his animals to roam free. I’m glad no one was attacked by any of the animals, and saddened that tranquilers couldn’t have been an alternative, but I understand the actions of the police.

  • cepatton28 says:

    The animals that were killed were killed at night and it appears that a few were disturbing the mans corpse. I would assume they will try to track and capture if they can today.

  • justin says:

    sad update: 48 killed, 6 captured, two still on the loose, and an unapologetic , trigger happy sheriff….

  • garfieldmom2 says:

    this would not of happened if the sheriff would not have stopped a sanctuary from getting the animals. Yes someone did step up and try to get these animals and put them in a safe and healthy environment. But the sheriff told them no, the animals were fine and taken care off. Instead of blaming people for trying to help these animals that are being rescued from zoos etc. try to support them. The people who run these privately owned sanctuarys bust there butts day in and day out taking care of these animals. Peta should not shame them or make threats against them. If you want to blame someone, check the usda for not doing there jobs.

  • Cece says:

    I am upset with what happen and I live in Ohio. But I understand that the sheriff had to do what he thought was the only option. They did try to tranquilze some of the animals but they stated that one of the grizzley bears was attaching the police officer. Jack Hanna also stated that he stands by what the sherriff ordered to be done. They couldn’t use the tranquilzer at night due to they weren’t sure where the animal would end up. Yes the death of a precious animal is terrible. But the death of a human due to these beautiful creatures would have been terrible also. The owner should have never been allow to own these animals. The owner pried the cages open and then he killed himself. He signed their death warrant with that action.

  • marianne jaskevich says:

    What can we do to stop this. It makes me so sad. My only consolation is knowing these beautiful creatures are with their creator now. Running free in the sunshine and fields of the place God has for them. “The Lion shall Lay down with the Lamb” and man to be punished for this cruelty.

  • Kas says:

    Even Jack Hanna said that tranquilizers wouldn’t have worked at all in this case. The first responders showed up following a few calls about escaped wildlife to the site just as it was getting dark (and raining) and immediately faced dozens of exotic animals (18 Bengal Tigers!!!!) charging them 500 plus yards from their pens. They didn’t have time to wait for the professional handlers to drive the hour+ from the Columbus zoo to show up. Jack Hanna, who is visibly devastated about this situation said that tranquilizers would likely have just stunned the animals. He said that tranqs don’t exactly mean the animals will fall over on the spot, rather they will run off and hide in the woods (in the dark and in the rain) and then possibly would be back up and running free before light. Plus even if they corralled them, the crazy owner destroyed the pens so there was no way to hold the animals in. Just a tragedy all around. Expect BIG changes in Ohio soon.

  • Nancee says:

    Sad that this has happened. Just makes me sick.

  • S Edward says:

    The question is, how can we take action RIGHT NOW to safely capture the remaining animals and who can validly adopt them? Who is Jack Hanna and does he need help? I am not from Ohio so I cannot get there to assist unless there is someone who needs to be contacted by e-mail or phone. PETA please take local action in Ohio NOW!

  • rainbow says:

    THANK YOU PETA for calling Jack Hanna out as the pimp for animal exploitation that he is.

  • Blake says:

    It sucks that the animals were in that situations. But the officials made the right call to put human life over animal life. Hanna even said it

  • Chris says:

    Jack Hanna is there helping them track and kill the animals. He is a wildlife pimp and I hope he ends up in jail someday.

  • Tracey Webb says:

    Sent a letter to Ohio Department of Natural Resources asking why this was allowed to go on with all of the violations and prison this insane idiot Terry Thompson is accused of. There should be a blame on the agencies that let this happen. Thank you for posting this story and giving us a lead as to where to write to.

  • Ashley says:

    I am from the area where this is happening. The situation is terrible from all aspects. The man opened the cages and then took his own life. Speculation as to why, is supposedly it was to get back at his wife, for leaving him? What that has to do with his animals….no one will probably ever know…but the reason for shooting the animals was…you cannot tranquilize them at night. Which was when this happened. Jack Hanna is in Zanesville, and even stated that even though he wished there was more that they could have done to save them, the sheriff made the correct decision in shooting them. This morning they did get close enough to a tiger to tranq it, and it took off and went crazy, it started to head for a sub-division, and they had to shoot it. While it is sad that the animals had to be taken down, fault really doesn’t lie within the Police….this man, who everyone says cared so much for his animals, didn’t seem to care to much, knowing that all or even some would have to be taken down, because of his stupid mistake.

  • amylovesangels says:

    This zanesville story repulses me…its is not the precious animals fault…..It’s the negligence of the stupid humans who are wrongfully allowed to have them and not care for them….Exotic animals DO NOT belong in this environment….PLEASE help stop this horrible and sad event from happening again by banning the ownership of these animals which belong in their natural safe habitat

  • ANIMAL LOVER says:

    I am SO OUTRAGED!! I can NOT believe they made ABSOLUTELY NO ATTEMPT for a safe capture and relocate effort for these beautiful majestic creatures! They deserved SO MUCH more than what they got and I am f* PISSED!!! PETA I’m counting on you to make a rebuttal and some sort of punishment for these evil do-ers. I will SUPPORT YOU 1000%!!!

  • Holly S. says:

    The auctions that sell these animals need to be shut down. I recently went to a small animal park with my sister called “living treasures”. I was under the impression that they rescue these animals from private places such as this one in Ohio. I was saddened to learn that the animals were purchased from an auction in Kentucky. Will not be going there again and will work hard to make sure other people know of these auctions.

  • Ken Sutiak says:

    Its very sad they have to kill these animals. The animals are not guilty of anything. I think the bears and wolves should def not be harmed as their are wild bears and wolves in the country. I’m glad Jack Hanna is involved, I would listen to his opinion rather than the police!

  • Violet says:

    Why are the police/sheriff deputies just shooting the escaped animals, when according to an article I just read “veterinarians and zoo staff are standing by, ready to help if needed”? Can’t these people who are experienced with exotic animals team up with the officers and go out to tranquilize them instead and send them to a sanctuary or one of the better zoos? I don’t understand why the animals are just being shot on sight.

  • RacerX says:

    This is the worst travesty I have seen in recent memories. I wish I was like my cats and not a human and didn’t have to read about this. It makes me cry.

  • thor1210 says:

    I just don’t understand why they had to kill them. Why not just tranquilize them and take them to a safe area. What a shame these poor animals had to die this way.

  • bill roth says:

    i don’t think any wild animals should be in captavity,including zoos and sea world and aquriams.wild anamils should only be in the wild and in their natural habitat.

  • Jacqui says:

    This is an outrage! I read about this incident on the LA Times website. My question is: why was authorities’ first response to kill these animals? Yes, the animals are a danger to the community, but why were tranquilizers not even considered as a first option?

  • A says:

    It doesn’t mention how he died, or if anyone else busted in and opened the cages. Interesting story. Too bad they couldn’t find safer means for everyone. This is WHY the animals belong in their NATURAL habitat. This guy essentially just killed all these beautiful animals.

  • Christine says:

    RIP innocent souls…so sad to tears 🙁

  • Appalled says:

    I was wondering if anyone would do anything about this. Its absolutely horrible. I do not agree with however, the ban on all exotic animals in Ohio. While some places should be shut down, there are many who are doing great things for exotic animals in Ohio, and I would be fully upset if they were shut down. But, someone needs to do something about this county shooting these innocent animals! They did NOTHING wrong!

  • HappiestS says:

    Why are the shooting the animals rather than tranquilizing them? Just terrible.

  • carol says:

    Another story about the incompetence of the people who do not make adequate laws to protect animals from people who want to profit for them. I have no sympathy for people who fall foul of their captive animals – maybe now the State of Ohio will do something positive to stop the abuse of wild animals in their state. For the cops to have to go out and shoot these animals it is distressing as well as scary and for the animals it is equally scary – don’t think otherwise.