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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.
  • livvy says:

    Hi. Well I’m from zanesville and I’ve been out to terry’s many times, and his animals weren’t “vicious” they were some of the sweetest animals I’ve ever met. And I’m kind of getting sick of everyone dissing on Terry. Yeah he has his faults and his mistakes. Everybody does. But he really did care abt his animals. And what ppl don’t understand is that the zoos wouldn’t take them in when they were being “neglected” but he tried his hardest to keep them healthy. But my question is. If ZPD knew that there was an exotic animal farm in the area then why didn’t they have the training they needed to know how to control them if they ever got loose and which they did get loose and it was very wrong of the cops to shoot those poor animals.!! They weren’t harming anyone.!! They could have saved A LOT more of them than they did.!!!

  • Byron says:

    These very wild animals should not have been releast, but they were.It maybe tobad,but, it’s better to kill these animals then for them to kill any poeple.Its sad,but,human life to more inportant.That guy was in the wrong.There should be a BAN in that State.I understand that.


    Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, STOP NOW !!!!

  • arghh to Common Sense says:

    This is to Common Sense’s comments. Whose to say those cops didn’t kill other animals or people by the bullets flying. The questions are: were those animals killed still on this man’s property…he owned quite a few acres? Was this unlawful? Can this man’s wife sue the crap out of the police, county,etc. etc.? The animals were never cofinscated by authorities so obviously the owner’s wife still had possession? This should be evaluated, I think some people could be in BIG trouble. There is going to be huge public outcry and I’m sure something will change…

  • Linda says:

    What ever happened to tranquilizer guns? How cruel of that man to turn them loose knowing what their fate would be. I hear some, if not the few remaining might be returned to the wife. Smart! Bout time Ohio passed a law banning private ownership of exotic animals! Shameful day for Ohio and yes I am from Ohio.

  • Jaime says:

    I cant believe i live in ohio, but this is truly sad when the animals were forced to be there and not in their own habitat. This would have never happened if these backyard zoos were illegal. The columbus zoo has only six of the animals, if anything they need to bring those animals back to their natural habitat were they should have been there whole lives. And this guy killed himself, in a lot of debt (probably from taking care of the animals) and he just let them all out of their cages to be shot! And one of the monkeys got eaten! thats just great! WE NEED TO GET THESE BACKYARD ZOOS ILLEGAL!

  • babedragon says:

    it’s so upsetting that these animals lost their lives, and that some people don’t even care. animals have feelings and are important too. they are innocent, and were unfortunately put in harms way, by a very selfish, sick man.

  • Kara says:

    Its disgusting that the first reaction was shot now and ask later. Its even more disgusting that everyone has to justify the killing of these animals by saying what if it was one of your kids or family memebers? I wouldn’t think someone wouldb be ignorant enough after the excape of the animals being made public to let their family members roam around. Common sense people. There is no justifying taking life wether its animals or humans. Who gets to decide if human life is more important. Life is important in all forms. There is so much killing in this world. All I see is more being added on in whatever form people can. Those police officers didn’t care one bit. They looked at it as an exotic hunting expedition. Those animals never asked to be held in cages or let free. Though frankly its their nature to be free so who are we anyways to have them in cages. Jack Hanna didn’t help either. He was all for what was done. He runs a zoo for crying out loud! He could have been a bit more helpful. He should have been trying to preserve the life of these innocent animals. I agree…shame on Ohio. I live in Ohio and am disappointe to say so!

  • Keira N 76 says:

    I am appalled by this grave news. I have two kids, I am an educator myself but my heart goes for these poor wild animals. They shouldn’t have been killed, the government of OHIO should try and SAVE them for goodness sake, these are very VALUABLE lives, priceless to say the least. Shame on OHIO, there can be NO justification for these killings. Brutal. Insane. A voice from overseas, Europe

  • Gillian Doyle says:

    Zanesville, Ohio – the DUMBEST place on earth. If there are no rules governing ownership of exotic animals, then the police department should be prepared with teams to tranquilize and transport the escaped animals to zoos or sanctuaries. As usual, cops just shoot and ask questions later. May the carnage and destruction of those innocent, rare and endangered animals weigh heavily on their minds. I would not want that guilt and karma to follow me.

  • Joel Harris says:

    I am a resident of zanesville. I happened to be driving by the scene before the sheriffs even got there. I took the video of the bear that has been all over the news, and I was shocked/disgusted to hear that there was a shoot on site command. The animals that I saw were not in any way aggressive towards the sherrifs or towards anyone else in the area. They were just scared and running. I understand shooting them if they show some signs of aggression towards people, but just to shoot them because they were loose is cowardly and disgusting. Not one of the animals that was let loose from its cage was saved. they shot EVERY SINGLE ONE…. and the bear that I got video of wasnt even able to get out of the fence. That means they walked right up and shot it through the fence. People have been hearing the news and arguing with me about what a great job the sheriff’s office did in handling the situation so bravely and preventing everyone from being hurt. But if they were truly brave they would have done what they could to save the animals. I can understand losing a few in the process, but to not save 1???? EPIC FAIL.

  • to common sense says:

    This is a reply to “common sense”, which is ironic because that person seems to have none. Yes, the animals could have killed people and they should be removed before that happened. However, was cruely shooting them the answer? What about tranquilizer darts? These animals were denied the right to live by no fault of their own.

  • kathy govreau says:

    These animals were doomed from the start. Law enforcement knew about this place & this jerk yet they had no contingency plan in place except to shoot the animals! Especially sad is the fact that some of the animals were shot right outside their cages. The whole situation makes me sick! There are sanctuaries in the US that are licensed to house large exotics but this place & places like these do nothing more than feed sick minds.

  • MJ says:

    Dear Common Sense: real “common sense” would dictate that the animals be handled by shooting them with tranquilizer guns, transporting them to a facility where they could be tested disease, and then perhaps sent to sanctuaries or reputable zoos. Don’t you think the assualt rifles presented a lot more danger to the public than the animals did, who were not attacking a single person, they were only fleeing for their lives? Get a grip! The police are out of control in some instances, and this was a cruel and unnecessary disaster.

  • kaitquetal says:

    they are called wild animals for a reason! it is ludicrous that anyone should be able to legally or illegally purchase and keep these creatures as pets! we need stricter bans and laws to prevent this from happening again! predators such as these deserve to live in the wild and hunt freely.

  • Jill Crosby says:

    Killing these wild, beautiful animals is outrageous. As usual people are believing the media and the spin they put on this story. Fear is such a powerful programming agent. Wake up people! Tranquilizing the animals and putting them in reputable sanctuaries was the answer, not murdering them! WTF??? How barbaric can we still be? This is absolutely ridiculous. I’m embarrassed for these sheriff’s deputies. What a cruel, needless thing to do!

  • Loni Griego says:

    Every state in the USA should have strong laws that prohibit owning wild animals & animal auctions. What occurred in Ohio was just plain WRONG. The hoarder that “owned” these creatures was responsible for their inevitable demise not anyone else!

  • czar08 says:

    The woman in the video says the animals were running around wild and crazy. They may be wild but not crazy, just scared and rightly so since there were humans with automatic weapons hunting them down. The only crazy here is the Governor of Ohio who did not have legislation in place to keep a tragedy like this from occurring.

  • dwalker says:

    A more common sense approach would have been to use tranqilizers-DAH!!!!!!!!!!!! There were animals shot that are on the endanger list-AND this man should never have had these animals in the first place-they should have left his property when the so called owner was sentenced. This was a free for all shooting match at innocent animals……SO OHIO how many of these animal carcases will be hanging on your living room wall????? I would not be proud of this at all!

  • Alyssa says:

    I live about an hour north and was pretty upset when I heard about this on the radio. There was no reason to kill them. But this is Zanesville we are talking about, and If you know about Zanesville, you know that these are people who have 50 guns in their house and shoot anything that walks.I heard that they only used a tranquilizer on one big tiger, but they “had” to shoot it because it became “too aggressive.” Very sad.:(

  • ajl says:

    The police officers did what they had to do. Tranqulizing cost a lot and I’m sure they don’t learn Tranqulizing in the academy! This whole nation is on a budget…so maybe whom ever thinks these police officers did something wrong should pay for the equipment and hire trained personnel to do it. They were fearing for there lifes and the surrounding citizens.

  • Karen M says:

    While I understand the urgency of not letting these animals roam free, I feel that once again man let down nature. If you are going to allow regular folks to have exotic animals then your state should be prepared for such fallout. It is unfair and cruel to place a wild animal in a captive situation and then shoot it at will. Wild animals belong in the wild, plain and simple. Humans took them out of their natural element and into ours and then killed them for being in our element. This is wrong on so many levels.

  • stephie says:

    weren’t some of these ‘exotic’ animals endangered and illegal to kill?

  • Sabina says:

    Very sad story, well said Laura….

  • Ellen says:

    This man was sited msny times for abuse and neglect, why these animals still remained in his care… I don’t understand ! They should have been removed from his property and taken to sancurys and rehab centers and found perminent homes. They should have been siezed and checked out by a Veterinarian and taken to a proper facility. That often happens when someone does not take action and do the right thing for the animals. We have to be their voice. They were in the hand of an abusive Human and kille by Humans. There is always a bad outcome when Humans get their hands on wild animals and the animals ALWAYS pay the price. Make it agaist the law to have ANY kind of wild animal in your possession !

  • Helen Buchanan says:

    I sobbed watching the tv reports at all that waste of beautiful innocent life because no one stopped a crazy abusive man. I am sure the men put in the horrible position will have nightmares the rest of their lives. this has got to stop,wild animals ARE WILD!!!!! please save domestic animals they all need homes.send donations to save the wild ones

  • Carrie Smith says:

    It’s sad these animals had to suffer at the hands of an ignorant human and an ignorant state. Shame on Ohio.

  • Common Sense says:

    Some of you are CRAZY!!! These animals were RUNNING LOOSE AND COULD HAVE KILLED PEOPLE FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! I bet you would be hurting more if one of your family members got bit by that monkey that had that disease that was dangerous to humans, or killed by a lion or tiger. So they had to do what they had to do. GET OVER IT ALREADY!

  • VSOTELO says:


  • Haydee Pomar says:

    This was an assasination of animals that by not fault of their own had no chance to live , endangered species that if they get kill in Africa , Us would have been outraged by it …they could have tranquilezed , the zoo truck was on site with what was need it to rescued them….what is wrong with Ohio…they like to hung …and this was the chance of a life time…….so sad…..!!!!!!!!!!

  • cathrine gardy says:

    I couldn

  • Army Ranger Veteran says:

    Unfortunately the public for the most part can only see and hear what the News, local papers and officials allow them to know and most of the information is swept under the rug so to speak. The Sheriff’s Office DID in fact have the means to tranquilize each and every animal and they also had the immediate help if requested from the Department of Natural Resources, US Department of A

  • Nancy Scnoenfeld says:

    This is unconscionable murder for no reason than to assuage people’s fears. The animals were innocent and they paid the ultimate price for human error. How unfair can it get?? Tranquillizer guns work fine and those who are fearful can stay safely in their houses. How hard is that to do? We live every day in B.C. with wild animals and with few exceptions, all of us survive. Pepper spray works well and doesn’t harm the animals. So there was no need for such speed in getting them rounded up, It could have been done slowly and carefully so that the animals would have been spared. How stupid to freak out and shoot every animal! What are they thinking about in Ohio?? They must be gun happy and crazed to kill all these beautiful animals-and some being endangered at that. Any old excuse to use a gun and kill something. Shame on you killers!

  • Bernie Williams says:

    I can only express my sadness for any of these animals being taken away from their natural culture, put into the hands of owners and cannot speak up for themselves. They did not deserve to be treated or die this way. I cannot sleep at night thinking of what they went through and such a tragic ending. All private ownership of exotic animals should be banned. I am against zoos and circuses for the same reason.

  • busybuckeye says:

    This was a matter of saving human lives. It is sad I know, but these animals were let loose just an hour before dark. If officials would have tranquilized them (they said It takes at least 8 minutes for the animal to go down, depending on how large and where they hit them) we would of had 56 wild animals passing out who knows where, and it’s dark. It would of been very tragic to have seen what could of happened if they didn’t get all those animals. “Hmm should we wait until morning to tranquilize them so we can see better? who cares if children or parents, or any adult for that matter gets attacked, we need to save these animals.”<---sarcastic. I know ya'll love animals (as do I) but when it comes down to your life and that animals life, which would you choose? It's a tragedy, and the laws for owning exotic animals will change. It hasn't been a law forever. So they're suppose to waste taxpayers money on things like "tranquilizer guns with night vision, and yearly training to learn how to take down a 400 lb lion". Its not as if this happens everyday. And all these crazy people are threatening and looking down on Jack Hanna for this event,that's just wrong. It's not his fault, he was highly shaken by this whole event, BUT he knew what had to be done. When you let your love for something get in the way of your human judgement or instinct, you won't last too long.. Just ask the lady that got her face clawed and mulled by her loving monkey. It's not the animals fault neither (obviously). I can see How it'd be wrong if just 5 or 6 animals got out and they killed them, but 56 getting out just before dark, now that's just common sense on what you would have to do. Life goes on

  • D. says:

    I understand what was done was to “save” people, however it seems little effort was spent on trying to save the animals. Yes these animals were “wild”, yes they were roaming, & yes it was getting dark, but do you think they were looking to go out and start killing or looking for a place to hide? They had no idea where they were & were probably just as scared as the people. I thought it was illegal to kill an endagered animal, but I suppose not since they murdered dozens of innocent creatures. I didn’t see anything on the news about the animals going on killing sprees. They rushed this and they only ones that paid were these animals. Furthermore, a man with animal cruelty on his record should never have been allowed to keep these animals in the first place. The system, from the government officials who allowed him to have the animals to the police who agreed to kill them, failed in a big way. I’m assuming laws will be put into place to prevent this from happening again, but it’s sad that it had to happen for the government to do anything. Maybe if the governor cared less about his bloated paycheck and more about the welfare of the citizens things like this wouldn’t happen.

  • PTodd says:


  • Leanne Teel says:

    This should never have happened in our “civilized” time. The whole US needs to ban private exotic zoos. These poor, poor lions, tigers and bears paid the ultimate price for humanities stupidity. Especially that these big cats on on the extinction list. The sheriffs dept. needs to be sent to Thailand and Africa to kill the poachers there which are killing our incredible tigers and lions. Do something useful.

  • Lori Dengler says:

    In the initial article about this tragedy, the sheriff’s department is quoted as saying that he had threatened on many occasions to let the animals go AND that they knew is “wasn’t a question of ‘if’ but ‘when'” this was going to happen. They have NO excuse for not having the appropriate tranquilizers available. Any emergency response team should have a good handle on the issues in their jurisdiction and should have a plan in place for worst case scenarios. Regardless, SOMEONE should have done something WAY before now. Shame on the state of Ohio.

  • Shawna says:

    This could have easily been prevented. I do not feel the need to have shot and killed at least 50 animals. The least they could have done was to tranquilize them and transport them into another animal sanctuary.

  • Gina D says:


  • Michele Albert says:

    They should be ashamed that they brutally killed all those beautiful and innocent animals. Those animals did not ask to be put in cages and abused by that owner. A little more compassion should have been shown. Hang your head in shame ohio. Stricter laws on keeping dangerous and exotic animals. Where was the government in all this?

  • Adam says:

    So you wanted to tranquilize 56 wild animals? Im not to sure if that would have worked in a populated area only 90 minutes until dark. The right decision was made in my opinion. It possibly saved lives of people. Good job Zanesville police department.

  • Ashley0538 says:

    I wish they would’ve attempted to tranquilize these animals. Police claim it couldn’t be done at night and they would not know where the animals dropped once they were out. However, a report said they were using infrared cameras to detect where the animals were in the first place, so I don’t understand why they wouldn’t be able to find them. Ohio should ban people from possessing wild animals. It’s inhumane. They’re locked in cages their entire life with no freedom or room to roam. I am from Ohio (Toledo Area)and there is a local “zoo” in Stony Ridge, Ohio that has a bunch of exotic animals. Same condition, locked in cages their entire lives. I just wish the government would revoke these rights. Animals belong in the wild.

  • T Pullen says:

    The untrained and incompetant police, the govenor of Ohio who promotes this madness, along with all the idiots (cowards) that are running loose (Americans in general) with silly little guns and bows should be taken to Africa and let lose on the planes of the serengeti. I am sick of people saying that we need to protect the citizens from wild animals. That is nonsense. We need to protect these animals with all we have. There are +6 billion humans polluting this small planet. There is only one important point – All of our animals deserve very special care.

  • SER37 says:

    I just want to say thank you to PETA for the work it does for animals and their rights. I am saddened and disturbed to my core with what has happened in Ohio. The only solace I have at this moment is knowing that I support PETA, this is what PETA is about, and that the organization goes above and beyond for this fight!! People including myself are so naive that this is even happening. This horrific tragedy has completely blown my mind.

  • Coastal Elite says:

    What a F*ing DISGRACE!!!! I agree with most of the poster above who wrote that the police acted with agression. The true threat is the Ohio Police, who, as far as I’m concerned are nothing but blood thirsty knuckle dragging Neanderthals! Average citizens should not be allowed to own exotic animals. What can we/I do to help pass a law that forbids citizens from own and/or profiting from exotic animals?

  • denise morais says:

    cruelty and abuse

  • Alayna says:

    While it is very tragic and sad that these poor animals died, you need to think about all angles of this event. Yes, private exotic zoos should be banned. But until they are illegal, they must be regulated and checked up on(Which they are not, so that needs to be changed). Yes, the sheriff’s department should have realized that this could be a disaster waiting to happen considering: 1. There are 50 large, exotic carnivores in their county. 2. The man had criminal offenses. They should have prepared for this to happen. Better safe than sorry. BUT they were not prepared. So instead of being equipped with tranquilizers and other methods some people mentioned, they had no choice but to put the animals down in order to protect the people of the county. Unpreparedness and panic is not a good combination. If they were prepared, they would not have panicked and would have been able to save the animals. Most counties that size has enough tranquilizers to put down large animals (i.e. cows and horses) once or twice a WEEK. Not enough for 50 large animals all at once. Also, tranquilizers do not always work. If you shoot it in the wrong place, the animals go on a rampage (Which actually happened. They successfully tranquilized a few, and the others were shot in the wrong place, thus making them angry).And possibly people of other counties if they simply let them go. This could have been a lot worse than it was. Now let’s learn from this terrible event and change our laws. Use your voice to ban private exotic zoos. Not to ridicule the people who did their best to save others’ lives.

  • Michael Willi says:

    They tried tranqualizing them, but as youb should know when they get tranqualized they go crazy and try to hide.. therefore endangering the public. It was sad that they were killed, but it was what had to be done.