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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.
  • catherine giles says:

    That’s disgraceful The owner (obviously not a zookeeper) would have been supplying those animals to a very private market for game shooting and he probably didn’t do a deal someone wanted. I bet the Game Hunters Association knew about this upcoming event and the taxidermists club. I saw that disgusting documentary on Australian TV one night about how there’s a large group of american men, some women, sons and daughters and local sheriffs too and some sports hunters from other countries who go out on organised shoots to get trophy heads and bodies to make stuffed animals of all kinds to keep or sell on. There is a niche market for this activity around the world and it is an addiction to the kill and how your trophy turns out and it’s all about finding the right set of glass eyes to make it look as real as possible again. How sick is that. The guy who made the doco had realised this and was sorry for what he had been doing and how he viewed the life of an animal and admitted it was a hard addiction to break but he did.

  • Aishwarya says:

    It is very inhumane to handle such situations by killing animals!! I am sure the sheriff’s knew about something called ‘Tranquilizer’. At present there is a threat to all wild animals and in spite the police did not care!! It is really sad to see police mishandling situations like this.

  • Daniel Park says:

    really wow that is so stupid that they would kill them they were an endangered species they should have been given to a good animal sanctuary untill they could be released in the wild where they live

  • Sam says:

    What happened was horrible and the fact that these animals were killed is a terrible tragedy but most of you are acting like killing these animals was the first idea that was thrown on the table. It wasn’t. The officers tried to tranquilize some of these animals and they turned violent. It was the only way to fix the problem in order to avoid the possible loss of human life. A lot of you are saying that everyone could have just stayed inside for a few days. How feasible is that idea? I mean really? It isn’t at all. Another reason the problem needed to be fixed as soon as possible other than the chance of one of these animals mauling a person, is that many of these animals had diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans. The officers did what they had to do, I’m sure most of them hated having to do it but it was necessary given the situation. But I agree, Ohio needs to have stricter laws about the ownership of exotic animals. That man should have never had those animals to begin with.

  • Alayna says:

    Tranquilizer darts do not always work. The amount of tranquilizer may not be enough for the animal or the dart could be shot in the wrong place, thus making the animal angry and sending it on a rampage. THINK about all sides of things before you form and state your opinion on it. Towns like this have tranquilizers enough for one or two large animals such as horses and cows to be put down A WEEK. What should have happened is that they should BAN private exotic zoos or have an emergency plan ready for these types of situations.

  • Helga says:

    It is not to understand why people with a history like Thompson can hord wild animals. That’s one thing. But it’s absolutely not to understand why Ohio is without better bans for owning exotic species in back yards. What else has to happen until officials wake up?

  • wendy bauer says:

    How awful about the zoo situation and I too want to know why tranquilizer guns wern’t used so these loving animas wild or not, could have been sent to preserves. Again, the cops were cruel and selfish and abusive with doing this to these animals and what about the ones found in the house? Dear God, tell me they weren’t shot as well!! NO MORE ANIMAL ZOOS AND CIRCUSES WITH ANIMALS AND NO MORE OWNING WILD ANOMALS!!!!WHO WILL PROTECT THEM? Those cops who killed them sould be imprisned for thie actions!

  • Harmony says:

    I know these beautiful creatures could have been caught and trapped humanely. It seems that because man has a gun in his hand it gives him the right to shoot whatever he wants. I have been so extremely angry over this ordeal that I can’t even see straight. These animals were not dangerous, they were scared and looking for a safe place to run to. Shame on you Ohio and your sheriffs dept. I do not mean everyone in Ohio only the ones responsible for this sad tragedy. SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!

  • lizza says:

    im sorry but this is digusting, lets think of this as if it were humans, is this acceptable…? is it? well of course not!! of course it is not acceptable to kill inocent humans, so why do we think it is acceptable to kill inocent animals purely because they MAY pose a threat to humans, im sorry who was hear first??the animals or the humans???

  • Linda says:

    How very, very sad for these animals. The fault lies with both the owner of the property and the state itself for allowing private ownership of exotic animals. Private ownership of exotic animals should be banned on a national level. They don’t belong in zoos, let alone with any Billy Bob that wants wild animals for fun, profit or his ego.

  • Diane L. says:

    What a devestating situation. What was that guy thinking. I just wish his wife could of got home sooner, then maybe she could of been the one in control, maybe the animals would of came up to her and they all would of survived. I think the rain had alot to do with it too, so the people had to think quickly. I wonder if they thought of throwing some kind of meat in the animals area and when they got too it then tranquilize them. It breaks my heart to see the pictures of them innocent beautiful animals laying masacred on the ground. At least they had a heart to bury them, and not burned them up. I rescue cats and I appreciate them more and more since that day. What if someone was to come in a masacre them, I would be so very heartbroken that they took away my babies, just like the wife when they took away her babies. My heart goes out to her, eaising them as babies and seeing them grow. I wish Mr. Hanna and the authorities would of gave them more of a chance. What a sad situation and a very sad day. God Bless the Animals.

  • sarah says:

    There had been complaints regarding this owner before. The sherrifs knew what they were dealing with however went into the situation completely unprepared. These animals are protected under federal law. The law enforcement agents should have made every attempt to secure these animals and transport them to a safe enviornment. Not one fatality was reported as a cause of these animals being loose, so why must they be killed? This is so wrong. The laws need to be so much stricter about owning exotic pets. I bet the sherrifs are so proud and selling the fur on the black market. They failed. They should admit it and make a public apology.

  • Yurick Hunt says:

    No one seems to mention that there was a fence around this place, albeit a short one but none the less they could have saved more animals had they tried. The owner was very well trained and I am sure that he had some routine for rounding up his “pets” when they got out. Why did they not contact the wife to see if they ahd an emergency kit or plan for the ranch. It all boils down to a bunch of red neck cops wanting to go on a safari hunt!

  • HalleTenhundfeld says:

    I live in Cincinnati, close to where this situation occured and I was devestated. I can’t believe they could not safely tranquilize the animals. The governor has promised to crack down on exotic animals being held in Ohio but the day he stated that people moved exotic cats such as tigers into Northgate mall in Cincinnati. I am sick of people treating animals like this.

  • annp says:

    Nobody is more saddened than I about the killing of all those beautiful animals. However, as a resident of Columbus who works at an equestrian center to the east of Columbus (towards Zanesville), I for one am glad I am not waking up every morning wondering where the handful of lions and tigers they couldn’t account for could be. Before you judge our “ignorant Ohio authorities” imagine for one moment you live in a location where lions and tigers are loose and unaccounted for. Ohio is a very populated state, and that area is full of people every where in small towns, on farms and 75 miles from a city. That officer is a hero. Having said that, I continue to mourn for the lives we lost. Get a clue about the reality of the situation and help Ohio secure better bans about owning exotic non-native species in back yards. Kasich said himself the other day he has no idea who has what, where and in what condition. Scary indeed.

  • Jessalyn10 says:

    This story makes me sick and so sad. I understand you have to protect the people, but it just seems as though there had to have been something else they could have done rather than slaughter such beautiful animals who were doing nothing wrong. The fact that giraffes were shot down sickens me most because they’re almost always harmless and they should not have been killed. Also, the bengal tiger is on it’s way to becomming extinct and they killed 18. The only place that any exotic/wild animal should ever be is a zoo and that is only the zoo’s that save injured or sick animals who could not survive without help.

  • Coralie Nellhard says:

    One of the real problems about animal suffering is that we = “the masses” don´t really want to know how animals suffer in the name of fashion, entertainment, experiments, food and for many other reasons. The more we can spread the word about how animals suffer, the more people will become aware, so keep up the good work and use every source available to spread information about animal suffering to create more awareness. This includes our own personal awareness. Ask yourself daily “What might I be doing that is creating suffering to animals?”

  • Erin says:

    I live close to that area this happened at. They did try and use tranquilizers on the some animals. With it being dark out & tranquilizers taking a few to set in, it was too dangerous to use them. They would run off once the tranq. hit them and the officers wouldnt have been able to find them since it was night time. they tried to tranq a tiger and it began charging at everyone. As sad of a situation as it is, the police needed to protect themselves and the community. That being said, ohio needs to pass a law to prohibit owning exotic animals. I am an animal lover BUT i feel the police/sheriffs did what they had to do to protect their community. even jack hannah agreed they did the right thing.

  • JessT says:

    Why the hell did they not tranquilize the animals…? Please someone officially explain to me why the reaction was “grab your guns boys! There’s critters loose!”

  • Brenda says:

    What happened in Ohio is a tragedy-exotic animals are not to be kept in captivity. Unfortunately the purchase of these animals is very easy. In Missouri there is an auction house called Lolli Brothers located in Macon, Missouri that sells exotic animals, horses, exotic cattle, and taxidermy. They have been around for many years and have a thriving business. Until places like this are shut down because legislation has been passed to ban the sale of exotics nothing will change. Missouri is a pipeline for this type of animal trade. It goes right along with the puppy mill business that has a strong hold in Missouri.

  • J says:

    @stephie: not if people’s lives are at risk.

  • Christopher Egli says:

    Why did they have to kill those animals? Why couldn’t they have made an effort to round up a few tranquilizer guns? Why couldn’t they have used their police cars to form a ring around them to pen them in? Why couldn’t they have stood by and fired warning shots if the animals tried to venture off? How many people are there in this country, just foaming at the mouth for a chance to kill something? What a sick bunch of people. Cowards.

  • WolfmanJack says:

    This did not have to happen. I am trained in wildlife capture and immobilization, and I can assure you that these animals could have been humanely captured and returned to their cages.

  • esirot says:

    What happened in Ohio is simply shameful and disgusting. Where are we heading? we have less and less respect for our environment and Nature. We, humans, should be the guardians and protectors of these amazingly beautiful creatures. Instead we shoot to kill before thinking and we cage them for our entertainment… What does it say about the human kind… simply that we are the most aggressive and destructive race out there. SAD…

  • Desiree DuPree says:

    This massacre of animals by such ignorant human beings is absolutely disgusting. The problem is not the animals, it never is. It is the repulsive ignorance & egoic intentions of human beings that is the problem. It is very obvious that there is too high of an ignorance level in Ohio. Why can’t you ignorant so called authority figures in Ohio just shoot each other & let us all off the hook. Our world would be a better place to live in if you were not in it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • USarmyinfantry says:

    I’m all for stopping animal abuse/neglect and saving them and whatnot. But not at the expense at human lives. I wouldn’t hesitate to kill an animal if it means saving a human life. I wouldn’t hesitate killing any number of animals to save a human life. And this is a golden example of what I’m talking about. All these animals were predators and they would have killed given the chance. So it sucks but it happened. At least no people were killed, other than the dumb ass farmer.

  • Kristiene says:

    I’m with you, Army Ranger… If a huge blizzard or a toxic rain came through- EVERYONE would have been forced to remain indoors until the situation was resolved. They had everything they needed (and would have had an enormous amount of help) had they decided to do this humanely! It was a matter of not wanting to be inconvenienced (as well as an animosity towards the owner) that caused them to go on a killing spree, instead! You can blame this on poor legislation since it fits and helps to strengthen the political agenda… But the fact is- It was plain and simple laziness and MURDER! Shame, Shame, Shame…

  • Bookeez says:

    I am appalled about the fact that these animals were allowed to be imprisioned by a deranged human being! Any PERSON that wants an animal, and I’m talking about domestic as well as wild animals, should be screened well before they are allowed to have one. Animals come with unconditional love….they have no idea what to expect from a person, let alone a deranged person! It is not the animals’ fault if the person has mental issues or just ‘issues’ within themselves. But in the long-run, the animal has to pay for the person’s actions. Owning an animal is a huge commitment….be prepared before taking in an animal’s life that is so dear as your own. As far these wild animals, NO ONE should be allowed to cage any animal….we are talking about exotic animals here!!! It should be against the law in the United States to own any wild animals! Sanctuaries are fine….albeit that the caretakers of these wild animals are screened also. It appeared that the killing of these animals looked more like a ‘sport’ than the concerns or the ramifications if they were tranquilized and transported to safe areas. The actions of the troopers were uncalled for, and if we don’t protest this kind of treatment against caged animals, we will never be at rest for the poor souls of these animals.

  • caterina benello says:

    Please 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.

  • Rebecca says:

    This was grossly mishandled. The sheriff’s response to accounting for the animals was shooting them and piling them up. Innocent victims of a crime scene were gunned down in cold blood!

  • Roger Emerick says:

    A sickening destruction of animals whose only fault was existing and stepping out of a cage. Any threat to human life by any animal means imprisonment or extinction of the animal. I don’t like death in general. But looking at it impartially, the most expendable life on the planet is the human life; as it has become the most destructive. Unchecked human procreation and consumption postures a dire ending for all.

  • jess says:

    Shame on you Ohio! Why was this man allowed to keep so many exotic animals in his home… especially after receiving many violations and threats to let the animals loose. Obviously they just don’t care. Shame on people who are actually trying to justify the killing of all these animals. If i lived in Ohio I would still not want these animals to be killed. Just stay in your homes people. Its not going to kill you to stay inside for a day or two until these animals are captured. Shame! Shame! Shame!

  • Laurie says:

    Why did they have to kill them? This story makes me sick. And why are people allowed to own these animals???

  • Christine says:

    ‘There will come a time, when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they do the murder of men.’ Leonardo de Vinci. That time is NOW. Cruelty of any kind against any living thing is a sign that a civilized society as yet does not exist, nor ever has existed, here on earth. Humans are a plague that mother nature needs to eradicate so all else can live. Wake up or remain the plague.

  • JESS says:

    I totally agree with Lori Dengler 100%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Christina says:

    I am from ohio, and think that it should be illegal to own wild animals, they are wild for a reason and should be owned by no one. But let me tell you this… they TRIED to tranqualize these animals first, and some of the animals went crazy after being tranqualized and tried to attack. Some animals were saved and taken to zoos or santuaries. IT wasn’t their first choice to have to kill these animals. It is easy to sit behind your computer and shame the officers and rescue people for shooting these poor animals, but be in their situation. Almost a hundred wild animals on the loose and some of them diseased, going out of control when tranqualizing…it was something that HAD to be done.

  • david f says:

    I live in zanesville, and i am sick and saddened by what transpired on 10-18-2011 in my town. I completely disagree with how the animals were stopped! We have had an outpouring of anger and frustration on how this situation was dealt with here in zanesville with the animals, I just want people to understand that not everyone in zanesville ohio agrees with killing the animals!!! I hope this never happens again anywhere in the WORLD!

  • Linda Kay says:

    This was a catastrophe waiting to happen; and due to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s refusal to extend the ban, the travesty came to pass. So senseless…so unnecessary. PLEASE declare emergency regulations to prohibit the keeping of exotic animals and also seize the animals over whom the agency has jurisdiction; see that they are placed in reputable sanctuaries. That’s the least you can do now.

  • Ethical One says:

    This hick sheriff Matt Lutz according to MANY sources is a possible hunter himself and has a bearskin rug. because this stupid corrupted state allows exotic pets, worst way endangered species they shouldn’t be killed because of the stupidity of our kind. They shouldn’t kill the tigers, cheetahs because they are endangered. Their lives are more valuable than lifestocks. Tigers and Cheetahs lives are more precious than human lives because they are rare species and are over 6 billions people on the planet. People should stay indoor. Until they fix the problem. Cops should shoot tranquilizers at the animals and bring them to a zoo or sanctuary w/e because they can’t survived in the wild because they were domesticated. These animals shouldn’t suffer death because of someone did something stupid. I find it really disgusting when people acts like we’re an endangered species. People have the brains to lock themselves indoors until the problem is neutralized. They treat us like we’re dumb and kill animals instead of saving species far more valuable than human lives. Ohio has one of the worst animal welfare in the world also why they allow toothed traps and cruelty etc.

  • emander26 says:

    This is horrible! Tough laws to prevent this!!!!

  • Chris says:

    John Kasich, the sheriff and the officers that shot these innocent animals should be prosecuted. John Kasich is irresponsible for letting this event happen by not addressing this expired law, he should resign. Why is anyone allowed to keep these animals in captivity? Why did he allow it? why does any state allow it? I truley believe the sheriff and his deputies were zealous to kill these animals and no thought was given for a solution that would save these animals. If I lived in this town I would move as I could not live there knowing this happened.

  • Viola says:

    My question is….why didn’t they use tranquilizer guns in stead of real bullets? How is there no law against the ownership of exotic animals in Ohio? Is the government there so uneducated that they can’t understand the need for laws like that?!!! I’m very ashamed of being a part of the human race with government officials as stupid as these. The ones that wanted the police to shoot the animals with bullets should be shot the same way. Let them feel what it feels like to be afraid and scared and then get shot.

  • Scareifina WLD says:

    This was a sad case of neglect and I fear bloodlust as well. We have the ability to put the animals to sleep and transport them but they choose to go on a killing spree instead. It’s just a typical end to an abuse cycle, violence begets violence next time the ANIMALS may decide to fight back and if a human gets killed then perhaps they will create a ban on keeping wild animals. We must be their voice in the meantime.

  • Scareifina WLD says:

    This was a sad case of neglect and I fear bloodlust as well. We have the ability to put the animals to sleep and transport them but they choose to go on a killing spree instead. It’s just a typical end to an abuse cycle, violence begets violence next time the ANIMALS may decide to fight back and if a human gets killed then perhaps they will create a ban on keeping wild animals. We must be their voice in the meantime.

  • Debra says:

    Why were these animals not tranquilized and removed to an area safer to humans as well as ro themselves? This is a shame!

  • Lynn Cvitko says:

    Human error and ignorance killed these animals. Let this be a lesson to the Department of Natural Resources. Categorizing these animals as exotic animals minimizes the danger they pose, folks these are wild animals perhaps only exotic in appearance. Keeping wild animals in captivity is cruel and irresponsible. I ask as one person did why were the animals shot and not tranquilizeds? What the heck is wrong with Ohio you guys seem famous for animal cruelty and you know what they say about individuals who torture or kill animals…ever heard of Ted Bundy. I’m just disgusted, clean up your act.

  • malinda says:

    IT WAS WRONG AND THATS ALL THERE IS TO IT…no one wanted to take the time to worry about the animals he just gun them down cold blood.should have aleast tryed.some never left there cages and were shot..and he gets a pat on the back for this …what the hell is this world coming too…I would hate for us to really have an event because all he did was cause a wide scale panic..

  • Kathryn Reyna says:

    What’s even sadder is the fact that if these animals were captured, they would have been imprisoned, abused, and on display once again in a small, cramped pen somewhere else making a profit for some greedy S.O.B. – even if it was at the most attractive, upkept zoo!

  • txlmom3 says:

    I am a resident of Zanesville, Muskingum County, Ohio. I am proud to live in this community where my Sheriff’s Department put their lives in danger for the sake of their citizens.Yes, it is very sad the animals died, and I am sick to my stomach over it. But, I stand behind Sheriff Lutz and the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Department for protecting our lives.

  • EarthWarrior54 says:

    The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi (1869-1948). Based on this tragedy and the way we continue to view & treat animals we have made little to no moral progress. I recently wrote a letter of complaint to A&E regarding their new reality show “American Hoggers” where they follow a family who’s job is to kill all the wild hogs that have taken over the backlands. And even tho I get the problem & I get how they are trashing the waters & killing off the natural wildlife I am disgusted that killing them is called ENTERTAINMENT. It’s just another example of how humankind will not be happy until we destroy this beautiful planet that very well could just be Heaven!