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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.
  • Jbpdx says:

    The sheriff is a pig

  • gbtbag says:

    There should be a nationwide ban on individuals keeping wild animals on their property. What’s the point anyway? To feed these people’s egos? Restricting animals that naturally roam huge distances to cages should be a crime.

  • Katie says:

    Regardless they had to shoot them. I love animals as much as anyone else does but they were wild and dangerous. What if they would have attacked a little kid or something? And they said that they tried traquilizer darts but the animals would not go down so they shot them. What would you rather have had? some animals running around killing for food? Its their natural order. They did what they had to do. Give them some freaking slack

  • Sam Parks says:

    I also live close to where this happend. It is an absolute tragedy that they gunned down these endangered animals! They killed 49 so far and people have been advised if they see the last one which from my understanding is a monkey that they need to kill it because it supposedly carries the herpes 2 virous. Fist off how do they know that it has this virous unless it has tested positive, second if it was tested positive then why wasnt any further action taken at the time they got the results!!! These so called law enforcement and governtment needs to be brought to justice for their injustice to protect these beautiful endangered animals!!

  • benjamin john says:

    you mean to tell me the only option is shoot to kill? does ohio have no wildlife officers trained to deal with these situations? do animals that remain confined within a boundary pose a danger to the community? i’m wondering how many heads will be mounted and skins taken for decorative purposes by the politicians and police involved in this turkey shoot. what a bunch of morons. can’t anyone in this country do anything right these days? maybe apply some brainpower that is supposed to separate us from the “lesser” animals.

  • Linda says:

    Ok the Sheriff slipped up and said “they WOULD have used trankguns if it was in a Residential area” as not to harm HUMANS meaning they CHOSE NOT to and “to hell with the animals” They had a free-for-all massacre NEEDLESSLY and PETA should be their VOICE and stand up for these innocent animals! PLEASE!!! This is an OUTRAGE!

  • Shaeden says:

    I am so so sad about this situation, I cant stop crying to see all those animals lying lifeless on the ground is beyond horrific. If this man wanted to kill himself he could have done that without involving these animals whom had no choice. I just cant believe that this happened. My heart is going out to the animals. I had to ask god if there was a heaven for animals because they didnt deserve this. the problem is when they had the chance to arrest this man for animal cruelty they didnt strip him of his custody of the animals therefore in the end causing this tragedy. Animals are god’s creatures and in no way will there EVER be an excuse as to why this was ok. I understand that the public has a right to safety but that should have applied to those animals too. I pray that the governor realizes the pain he has caused the public for a lack of a better decision.

  • animallove says:

    Some of these comments are way off base. How can you blame the sheriff and call him criminal. He up held his sworn duty to protect the citizens of his county and given the situation he did a Great job. This is a very very sad story and if you want to blame anyone or anything blame the owner and the current laws or lack there off. Tranquillizers take time to kick in and trapping can take days both means would most likley result in the loss of human life. It was dark and there were 56 starving top of the food chain animals roaming around, there is only one option the sheriff can take and that was sadly yes but logical to shoot the animals. So stop blaming a man who did his duty.

  • ambrielledawn says:

    I understand being scared for ur life n firing your gun but some of these animals were not even far from there cages or off the compound that would have been the time to call the correct officials in with tranquilizers but instead these disgusting ham beings ordered the death of these scared animals . isn’t it illegal to kill an endangered species. that sherif needs ti b held accountable for this

  • BobbyV says:

    Amongst the dead were donkeys, camels, zebra, and giraffes. How were THESE animals a danger to the public? It’s only proof that the Sheriff department just wanted to play safari. They’d probably been waiting for this moment for a long time based on the history that the owner had with the law.

  • dave k from canton,ohio says:

    there are many facts here that are still going to be debated but in reality of it all this is my opinion…exotic animals need to be left in the wild. in captivity they are subject to abuse and poor living situations.whatever happened to the exotic animals just being admired in their own habitat and through pictures…when did we get so greedy that we had to own these beautiful animals. and another thing..why are these permits even allowed?and why does our government just do a song and dance about this situation? i understand the dangers of the animals getting loose but what i don’t understand is the safari hunt in ohio brought on by fear?have we really become this heartless and when does it stop? please P.E.T.A lets do something about this! for the animals that are out there now that are suffering and for the ones we just lost due to the greed of humanity wanting to own all these beautiful animals… tonight i say a prayer for all of you

  • James Voss says:

    One word.. Devastating…

  • Anita from Ohio says:

    Did anyone read the web article on CNN “Human life has to come first.” There are 7 billion humans on this planet. Some of those animals were endangered. We need to protect animals that can’t speak for themselves. What are humans if not primates?

  • Susan Ellen says:

    How could a civilized state allow an individual to own so many wild animals, endangered and rare? There needs to be a NATIONAL movement to get Ohio to create laws against this travesty. The slaughter of such magnificent, rare and endangered animals is outright disgusting & horrific, and the situation should never have been allowed to develop in the first place. SHAME on Ohio! SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!

  • Rita says:

    The more I see of humanity, the more I hope the world really does end in 2012. I can’t take this senseless cruelty anymore.

  • Eric Myers says:

    what i want to know is why people are not stepping in to save the animals that are free any animal can be brought down with a trank there is no need to be killing these endangered animals the sheriff one should be out there with tranks not rifles and for shooting them with no really reason other then them running free should loose his job in my opinion u can have your officers and rangers out looking for them keep people inside and if people see them report them in its not hard but man is so destructive and only knows how to kill. the people who say its sad they should kill them need to speak out and have there voices heard.

  • MA Moore says:

    Get em PETA! This is so wrong on so many levels!

  • Rick says:

    I am disgusted and heartbroken by the senseless slaughter of these beautiful animals in Ohio. This did NOT have to end this way. There had to be options. Nobody cared to take the time to find those options. God wept this day. Someone should be held accountable. There is no evidence these animals would have harmed anyone. Just another case of mankind needing to its “superiority”. I am appalled that Jack Hanna did not use the influence of his celebrity to intercede. It will take a long time for me to heal from this.

  • danielle says:

    this whole situation is disgusting and i am embarrassed to say that i am from ohio. that sheriff definitely made the wrong call in shooting all of those animals and the police should have down their job several years ago when the owner was charged with animal cruelty. those people who did not correctly do their jobs should have been shot, not all these innocent animals.

  • Amy from ohio says:

    I agree these endangered animals that have lost their life on their land in their home is a disgrace. They are just like a dog that had a intruder come in on their property. If we’e allowed to have them as pets they should have the same rights as pets right!!!Those of you with the,,, but their dangerous not like dogs. Your exactly right they are more dangerous than a dog they should not be allowed to be owned as such. I also believe the sheriffs department should have made appropriate calls for help and made plans before entering the property half cocked and not armed with the neccesary equipment.So the animals could’ve been tranquilized till they could’ve been moved to a secure area.The ones that had escaped I understand. We all need to learn from this and do our part to put the law back in place and enforse it to protect our animals.

  • scott says:

    I do think the sheriff acted a little hastily on the shoot to kill order, but if a single human had been attacked or killed by one of these animals he would be in a lot more hot water than he is now. also according to a couple news stories they tried to tranq some of the animals when they got close enough and they werent having an immediate affect and human lives were in immediate danger. i dont think it was completely necessary but its a tough decision to make and i cant completely blame the sheriff and label him a animal hating monster

  • Dina says:

    This is criminal! This was avoidable and so tragic. The governor of Ohio let the ban on owning exotic animals expire because it would hurt small business. WHAT???

  • Kristen says:

    This is the most disturbing thing i have ever witnessed. These sherrifs are nasty people.

  • Lynner says:

    inhumane and unfair…these animals did nothing to deserve being shot…Ohio officials couldn’t think of anything else to help this situation? It was not the animals doing, they did nothing to deserve this…it is disgusting…

  • Ryan says:

    Trisha from Ohio…of course the animals were not attacking!! The officers never gave them the chance to do so. I’m just as much a fan of animals as the next guy along with proper treatment but when you innocent children potentially in harms way when wolves and lions are roaming it’s time to shoot some animals!!

  • ky says:

    So sad. He was an idiot. Why do people think it’s cool to own wild animals, like they think their big shots. They need to be in the wild or at sanctuaries. and did no one notice the animals while we was in prision, how did he get them? He must have had money…was no one paying attention.

  • Kelsey says:

    they seriously couldn’t have taken the time to tranquilize endangered animals? i guess it was better to save time and massacre animals that are almost extinct. very irresponsible of the sheriff

  • Mary from Atlanta says:

    I could not believe that this has happened in our great nation. Everybody should feel responsible. These animals were innocent victims and we let them down so badly. The authorities did what they have to to protect public safety but since they don’t have the expertise to deal with this kind of situation I don’t suppose that they just killed animals on site even if they were not attacking? Trisha from Ohio expressed the same concern.

  • Raihana says:

    I cant believe what those HORRIBLE officers did to those poor animals. Humans are ruining the world and because of us all types of animals including beautiful big cats are dying. You would think that at this day and age humans would have some brains but i guess not. I cried so much for these beauties. I would do anything for god to bring these animals back and for animals to be in peace. RIP 🙁

  • italianpride84 says:

    I am very very disturbed by this… what kind of country do we live in that won’t protect endangered anmals from being “pets” this guy was obviously crazy and already was abusive and mis treating these animals so how come someone didnt come in and save them right there at that point? no they waited unit they had to kill 50 gorgeous wild animals who were just acting on instinct. what can we do to prevent this kind of horrific tradigy from ever happening again?

  • VeganHoosier21 says:

    I feel bad for the law authorities that were forced to kill these animals to protect themselves and their citizens. A deputy was interviewed and he was nearly in tears having to explain how he had to kill animals to protect citizens. If that man had not had all those animals, this would not have happened and they would not have had to kill them. Ohio needs more restrictions!

  • Joseph Todd says:

    I am pleased to see that PETA is blaming Terry Thompson for this very unfortunate incident. Its sad that OH laws permitted him to have these animals in the first place, particularly given his history of poor care (and abuse) of them. As Jack Hanna said, this could have been a lot worse. No winners when the laws allow people to have wild animals as “pets”. My PWD (dog) gets 1st class treatment in my house, but the thought of trying to hold captive a wild animal is disgusting. Shame on the State of OH and shame on the now deceased Mr. Thompson. I feel their job. they must have felt horrible having to put down these majestic creatures that obviously posed a serious threat to the community.

  • Dee Ann Aldridge says:

    dont like this should not have ever happened.

  • Remy McFadden says:

    I am deeply sadden and disgusted by the death of these beautiful creators. The Ohio sheriff didn’t try to save these animals. He just ordered them to be ‘killed on site’ The option of tranquilizer darts didn’t even cross his mind. He was just out for blood.

  • Mike says:

    This is insane. There is no reason why they couldn’t have just tranquilizer darted these animals. They had the town on lock down. Disgusting. Sounds like some gun happy nuts just wanting to shoot the animals.

  • Dasha says:

    This is animal cruelty in all its glory! Most of the animals that were killed are endangered and have done nothing wrong. The animals did not run off like wild and crazy beasts attacking the public and did not deserve to be murdered. This is mass murder is what this is and the blood of these innocent animals is on the hands of Ohio police, and especially the man responsible for calling the shots. I hope you are ashamed of yourself Murderers!

  • Tim says:

    What happened in Zainsville, OH is very,very wrong! And I feel the Governor should be held accountable just as the people who have them. But, let me ask this? What if the animals that had escaped had been from a normal zoo. Would it had been handled differently? Safe capture first or a safari?

  • Tandoku says:

    Hey just joined Peta, it upsets me that they had to kill these animals, they could’ve have helped the animals, barely any animals got out of the farm. I believe that animals have lives too, so treat them well.

  • K says:

    They tried to shoot some of the animals with tranquilizers but the animals charged after the officers and therefore they had to kill them. Some of the animals have been, I guess you can say saved, considering they are only going the Columbus Zoo. I live in Ohio and I am very upset that there is no law against having exotic animals as pets. We need to do all we can to get a ban. The fact that this man has also been in trouble for animal abuse and neglect shocks me as to why he was ever allowed to keep the animals in the first place. Some of these are endangered species we are talking about!

  • RE says:

    I am so sad I think the police just wanted to get some target practice in. To bad we can’t place a gun in the animals paws and turn the tables.

  • asha says:

    its really sad when animals are being killed because of stupid humans!!! because of those people who think they can take care exotic animals we are losing some of these animals are endangered species. RIP to all the animals who had to died because of humans. 🙁

  • Kathye says:

    I cannot stop crying over the death of these beautiful creatures. What in the world was this Sheriff Mttt Lutz thinking. He was on a safari hunt with no concern for these animals. They were just scarred. No wonder with everyone chasing them and trying to shoot them. How can any animal lover let this happen. This inhumane sheriff and his deputies should be held accountable for their actions. Most of these animals did not even leave the sanctuary. Only have the opinion of the Sheriff who order their deaths. They could have trapped or darted them. PETA it is up to you to go get them.

  • cutetxdoc says:

    I also am disgusted by the criminal actions of the zoo owner and am deeply saddened with the demise of these wonderful animals. With that said, you have to realize that tranquilizer darts sometimes take up to 6 minutes to take effect. In the meantime, these animals would charge and ferociously attack any human being in the vicinity. The scene was chaotic, close to nightfall and raining, and I sure that qualified vets with the tranquilizers were not immediately available. Can you fault any police officer, who in fear for his life, opted to shoot to kill? Would you prefer that these wild animals be allowed to roam the countryside and kill anyone in their paths? The whole thing makes me sick…The laws HAVE to be changed- this tragedy should not have occurred.

  • Tabby says:

    It absolutely disgusts me that this happened. IT could have been avoided all together if our governor and former would have been doing his job. It saddens me that so many innocent animals lost their lives, some of them being very endangered. There had to be a better way to go about it. Makes me sad to say I am from Ohio. =(

  • buckohio says:

    I think they were not very prepared to control the situation. My question would be, Why would anyone be allowed to have this many exotic animals(big animals)? This was a pure no win situation.

  • Caity Sardenelli says:

    I live one hour from where this happened in Ohio, as I do understand that this is a disgrace, realize that this man who had this “sanctuary” was in trouble numerous times with the law; and even just was released from prison earlier this year. Although I don’t condemn killing this animals, we must uphold public welfare, just around the corner are subdivisions, families playing outside, kids arriving home from friend’s houses; seniors out walking their pets. What are they to do when a 350 pound tiger is on their sidewalk? Realize that the Sheriff although not the brightest, did what he thought was right at the time. Here he enters this compound where every cage is open; tigers, lions, and bears have a “free-for-all.” The Sheriff department is the first to respond with a few cars and no “TRANQUILIZERS,” as they do not have these readily available. So what is he to do when a 350 pound tiger is charging his police car? What would you do? Say, “Here kitty, kitty, nice kitty,” sure and when that didn’t work; would you die for that animal and allow it to roam passed you into suburban areas? Get Angry, Be Mad, I am; but be mad at Ohio’s governor who refuses to pull the reigns on places such as the Mid-Ohio Exotic Animal auctions where any “joe shmoe” can buy a cute, fuzzy baby cub for $300.00. And a governor that hands out permits to his most wealthy supporters, as a trade not to shut them down. Get mad! Get Angry, but make sure to understand why your angry, then take action. Make Laws stronger, write your government and get involved!

  • Elyse says:

    I live really close to this and am totally outraged. The police just gunned down these poor animals and Jack Hanna agrees with them. They claim a vet tried to trank one animal but it just kept running. Well figure out the right dosage then. I’m so angry I’m seeing red.

  • wiguy says:

    they had to shoot the animals…do you think officers have easy access to the type of tranquilizers that would be required? If I was an officer on scene, I would have no problem dropping one of the animals, mainly out of fear for my own life or the life of a local residdence. Remember, humans are above all other animals. Stop putting animals above humans.

  • Ashley says:

    This situation should have never escalated to the point where all of these animals were killed and many human lives were put at risk. All of his animals should have taken away from him in November 2005 when he was convicted of animal cruelty. Nothing was done to help these animals. Everyone who ignored this situation and allowed it to escalate is to blame. All that can be done now is to ensure that it never happens again by changing and enforcing the law so that delusional morons are not allowed to bring dangerous exotic animals into human populated areas, and the scum who sell these animals are punished so harshly that it is no longer worthwhile for them to exploit animals.