Skip to Main Content

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.
  • somepeoplernuts says:

    Local law enforcement had tried in the past to make him get rid of the animals that is why he had been sited for cruelity, there just wasn’t the laws to back it up. Mr. Thompson is the one at fault the animals wouldn’t have been harmed and could have been dealt with properly if he would have released them and cut the sides out of the cages. As for the caretaker….really…he was there told them how many animals there were on the property he had an opportunity to help and didn’t. He is talking after the fact. I heard him on the news says they were partly his animals then he should be held partly responsible for the man power it took to stop these animals from escaping in to residential areas and killing children.

  • Susanmpls says:

    As Jack Hanna said “Their are only 1400 of these beautiful cats left in the wild and now there are even less in captivity! 1st Why did they not try the sedatives 1st and if that didn’t work and they became aggressive then shot to kill. They do it in the wild all the time, do you ever watch discovery or animal planet. 2nd if these animals all die, firm belief we are next! JACK HANNA you were their what do you think????

  • Steven Biggs says:

    Come on people. These were animals that if given a chance would maul you to death and then eat you. You can not expect an officer that more than likely has a family at home to try and “catch” any of them. Thay all did the correct thing by taking all of them down. So don’t act like the “humans” (as you all say) that killed them are at fault. It was one man….the owner that set them loose!!

  • Olivia Nole-Malpezzi says:

    This makes me so sick. I am torn up about the whole thing… I emailed the Ohio State Dpt. of Natural Resources, I think it is extremely important to add some public pressure to their legislative decision. Here is an example of the email I sent, anyone can use it. Just please take the time to send something: After hearing about the devastating slaughter of over two dozen exotic and endangered animals I think it is evident that we can no longer house these wildly magnificent, yet extremely dangerous animals as house pets. They do not belong in a home, a backyard, or a local farm. They belong in the wild, and if not there, then in a reserve or sanctuary, that is well facilitated by expert zoologists and care-takers. This is a tragic event and it pains me greatly to hear that these animals had to be shot down in the street due to the lack of humanity and responsibility of humans, who took it upon themselves to house them in environments not suitable for their needs. These animals did not deserve this death. PLEASE, please exercise your 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. They at least, deserve this. Thank you for your time.

  • Get Real says:

    do you people know how hard it is to use a tranquilizer gun? -Each dart has to be loaded just before it is shot, they don’t come pre loaded -Use too little of whatever drug and the animal runs off. Use too much and it dies. -The same drug probably cannot be used for bears and cats. -Probably zero proper tranquilizer guns in the area and it would take too long to get a proper one there -Range on a tranquilizer is at max 60 feet, and that’s getting into the unreliable range Not to mention the drugs don’t work immediately and it’s nearly impossible to tranq in the dark as you can’t see if it even hit the animal or the plunger went down. If they did tranq them and then it runs off and passes out and they can’t find it what happens when it wakes up in the middle of the night hungry and pissed off? And waiting to assemble a team of properly trained individuals, probably from the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds, would have taken too long. And one woman did try to tranq a tiger and it charged at her and was subsequently shot. This is a fairly large wooded area they were released in to and given the hours it woudl take for trained they would have dispersed into a very wide area. This was the only option to protect the public especially considering these animals were probably not afraid of humans because they were around the handler frequently.

  • Dana from Ky says:

    BS on the tranque taking 6 mintutes to take effect. You obviously have never tranqued a large animal. They go down in seconds not minutes. So what if they overdose them, they still would have had a chance. I would have been more worried about the bullets flying than darts. The vet said he could be there in 10 minutes. They must have been pretty tame, they didn’t run off after the bullets started flying, what was just one animal worth? 100’s of k’s?

  • disgusted in Alabama says:

    There are many things that PETA does that I don’t agree with, but I am in full support of PETA going after this sherriff. PETA, you are the animals’ watchdog. Please tear that sherriff apart. Justice must be brought for those poor innocent animals. Of course they were agressive! I would be with people running after me and shooting at me, too! Shame on the sherriff! What happened to a sherriff like Andy Taylor from Mayberry? He took in all those dogs because he had a heart. Shame, shame, shame on that sherriff.

  • wport says:

    Fisrt off my heart goes out for the family. Second off i blame the sheriff’s dept, the goverment, there is no reason these animals should been killed isnt there something we can do. We got a bunch of trigger happy redneck’s that were just waiting to use there weapons and what a perfect chance. They should of been sedated and move a a wildlife where they could live the rest of there lives. There should be something we can do to bring justice to these animals that died for no reason if anyone know let me know i will go 100 percent to bat for these poor animals that were doing nothing but what they are suppose to do!!!!

  • Mimi says:

    I will never understand how we have gotten so far with how cruel we treat animals…. Rue Mcclanahan once said “Cruelty is one fashion statement we can do without.” Because of this situation many have died because they were placed in a situation, not by their own choice, but by someone who lacked respect. Several of these animals are endangered and now more have died. I have no sympathy for the man who died. I guess the saying is true, what goes around comes around. Shame on our government for not passing strict laws to end the ownership and abuse of exotic animals. I once read the loneliest animal on earth is the one placed in a cage with no freedom in sight. Thank you PETA for being a voice for the voiceless.

  • Tlily says:

    I dont think its right. Whomever let the animals go was wrong in doing so. The very animals we were trying to protect had to die because of plain human stupidity. That man should not have had those animals but he did he was mean and cruel and they should have been in a natural environment like nature planned. But it didnt happen that way. He died and the animals got out. How can we call ourselves animal lovers if we allow this to continue? By setting them free in to the public we signed their death sentence and that means the very animals we are trying to keep from being endangered are now even more because noone seems to think things through. Its not fair. They didnt ask for this and dont deserve it. Human beings (ALL OF US) need to stop and think before we do!

  • Sylvia K. says:

    I am totally against people keeping exotic pets, but really they should’ve had adequate amount of tranqs available for this as they assumed was “a disaster waiting to happen”.The way they took care of this situation was extremely badly done!Outlaw this completely so it will never happen again. Now that makes people wonder if they can’t handle this , we’re all in trouble!I think the police acted this way because they were simply not prepared for this situation!They should’ve had a back up plan for any potential escape event!If this was a zoo and something like this happened-there would be no killings!

  • Christopher Coffinger says:

    Very sad that the animals suffered because of 1 person. I still don’t see why the black bears and wolves could not have been saved… in N. MI….you go in the woods…you see them.

  • aly from ga says:

    I really don’t see why we “have to put human life first” as a member of the Ohio PD said. There’s 7 billion of us and a mere 1400 of them. I would have been the one wielding the tranquilizer gun if it saved 18 of these guys. I would have easily put my life on the line for them. It sickens me that we kill 18 of theses beautiful creatures to save one or two of us. 7 BILLION. We’re not the endangered species. THEY are.

  • Beth says:

    Regardless of who is to blame, there has been tragic loss of life. It is a sad day for mankind who has been given charge to “care for” the animal kingdom. My Spirit is deeply saddened and for this loss I grieve. We are one global family and each life has purpose. There is blood shed upon Mother Earth once again. It’s just sad.

  • jen says:

    I am from Ohio and I called the Ohio Department of Natural resources. I was told to contact the legislator or the governor’s office. I think everyone should contact all three!



  • Hunter :) says:

    No matter what anyone says, the animals had to be killed to prevent attacks on humans and especially little kids. They could not risk tranquilizing them, and even hanah, an animal ‘lover’ said the same thing. Y’all should really do some research before making comments about how they shouldn’t have shot them and that it was cruel. Yah, it’s terrible that any animal is killed for purposes other than food or management reasons but you just can’t have lions and tigers and bears ( oh my) running around In the Ohio country side. Maybe y’all should stop complaining about what should’ve happened and actually do something to stop people like this from having them in the first place.

  • birdienunumn says:

    PLEASE help do something about these horrible law enforcement agents! They can’t just shoot animals…shooting a monkey? It’s horrible! Please let us do something!

  • rkt says:

    I agree that the government and local officials MUST be held accountable to the full extent of the law for this horrible tragedy involving endangered animals. I cannot believe that there’s nothing that can be done. Though the most important thing now, is to use the momentum to pressure states into passing laws against ordinary idiots ‘owning’ exotic animals. For god’s sake, wouldn’t that have been simple common sense to start with?

  • sad from NIceville says:

    This event has really saddened me. There had to be a better way to deal with this situation. I am ashamed of the human race. Those poor animals had been so tramatized through this entire event. They probably did not have the best life. Humans take over their habbitats. We cage them because we are scared of them. Really? Looks like humans killed them with asalt guns. They were not even outside of the fenced in property. Some of them standing next to their cages trying to get back in. They were scared and wanted back in their cages. How about opening the cage doors and letting them in? This was a massmurder of animals. A hayday for hunters.

  • MonicaP says:

    I am so saddened by this horrible event and especially sickened in knowing that rare animals, such as the beautiful Bengal, are dead due to lack of appropriate laws. I understand that the police did not have tranquilizers and that if they did, it does not take affect immediately. I understand that a charging tiger or bear must be stopped but it’s tragic to know they are gone. However, I’m sure the police could have made a better effort to save as many as possible. Did they shoot on site without even trying? Had the owner kept the cages locked, these beautiful animals would still be alive. What really makes me tear up and the more gentle animals such as the camels and giraffe(s). Were they shot too? I really don’t want to know but in reading various news web sites, they are not mentioned as being captured and taken to a zoo. Now that’s tragic! People need to understand these animals are not for our amusement. They need to remain in the wild. No one should be allowed to keep an exotic animal. No one should have exotic animals ANYWHERE! Laws must be changed and they must be changed now.

  • Dana says:

    I don’t understand WHY they didn’t bring in professional animal wranglers from maybe a local zoo etc???? This us done all if the time in these types of situations. Killing any animal is bad enough, but to murder endangered species is incomprehensible! These poor animals did not create this problem, a better humane solution was available if authorities and those in charge would have put some thought into this. These poor animals will not see justice for this human mess.

  • veggie_chick221 says:

    Oh my goodness, people are so idiotic and stupid. First off you should never keep wild animals on your propery; it’s not natural for them and they will lash out eventually. If that man was killed by one of the animals, he deserved it. Secondly it’s called using dart-guns, not ones that kill! Since when do we have to resort to murdering animals who are simply frightened and are trying to find out just where the heck they are? It’s ridiculous! Someone needs to knock some sense into that community and that sherrif. I’m so upset and saddened for these poor animals, it’s just not fair to them. They were wronged, and now they’re dead. Where’s the justice in that?

  • Dragonwood72 says:

    What breaks my heart is that i read that the closest zoo to the “sanctuary” was out and ready with dart guns and tranqualizers. But they didn’t get a chance. They could’ve done something else, when they walked into the “sanctuary there were many animals standing near their unlocked door, they could’ve been darted them through the fences at a safe distance, or something else, anything else but just killing them.

  • Val says:

    This disgusts me SO much! I am so ashamed to be an Ohioan.

  • Gail from Zanesville says:

    This was a complete tragedy. We have a game preserve called the wilds ,Columbus Zoo was down here. Why could’nt it been more of a well thought out plan then lets go hunting. Allot of people in Zanesville are really upset how this turned out.

  • Jen - Not From Ohio says:

    Like everyone, I am angry and sad and outraged over this situation BUT please, everyone, direct that anger in a positive way. Plead with the government of Ohio (and the other 9 states with NO regulations on owning exotics) to change their laws. The police in Ohio did an ugly thing that I’m sure brought them no joy but it was truly the ONLY thing that could have been done in this dire situation. I love all animals and am saddened any time any animal is killed but anger at the police is misplaced. Those men did all they could do to prevent this tragedy from becoming even bigger than it was. Call and write the legislators – CHANGE the laws that allow these things to come. Vote for candidates who are FOR restriction (BANNING!) the keepiing of exotics as pets. We can not help the poor animals who died because they weren’t protected in Ohio but we can work hard to try and make sure this tragedy is never repeated.

  • Evan says:

    I think the sherrifs department is totally at fault.Knowing the history of this man and the condition of the facilities, they should have been prepared. Who’s to say that even a natural disaster or event like a fire or tornado would not have released these animals. The sherrifs department should be charged and taken to court. Every police car should have been equipped for such an event.

  • Valerie from Ohio says:

    I’ve cried,yelled and wished some terrible things to happen to those who were to gun crazy to think with the brains that GOD supposedly gave them. I too believe the sherrif should be held accountable for his terrible judgement and do sincerely hope that someone can inflict some justice for those animals who were so wrongly killed because the humans on the planet have not yet learned to share this earth.

  • Victor says:

    Why didn’t they use Tranquilliser guns , those hillbillies just wanted to have a hunting spree , bastards , I hope someday someone hunts them down! – Victor (Romania)

  • jill campbell says:

    do you guys know his wife is trying to get them back from the zoo!!!…and I would NOT call terry thompsons land a farm or zoo or was a DUMP…sited for cruelty to animals…this could have been prevented only by enforceable laws that are NOT in place as they should be..did you see jack hannah…he was almost in tears and outrage…very tragic

  • TJ says:

    There is no understanding and no excuse for this behavior! Not only was this irrational behavior of the police force, as so many times, it’s also a crime to kill an endangered species, such as he Bengal tiger. PETA, I hope and strongly expect that you will pursue the sheriff department and file a case for animal cruelty against the sheriff and the department. A trigger happy sheriff and its people should be responsible for their action, as is every other citizen. I hope this makes the news and PETA is making a difference!

  • EasyStevie says:

    It’s morbid and disgusting when we can use the endangerment of a few people to justify the execution of our fellow earthlings. Jack Hanna should be ashamed of himself to be involved in such a horrifying massacre of beautiful and rare exotic animals. I would hope that if he has any affiliation with PETA they’re seriously reconsidering. No one can claim to love an animal and then brutally slay them and still be considered an animal advocate. We know nothing will ever come of this no one will be charged with animal abuse or cruelty even though there was no justification for killing any of the animals, tranquilizers would’ve worked if they had bother to try them at all but instead the grand solution was to murder helpless and confused animals who probably spent the majority of their lives being mistreated only to meet their end at the hand/ barrel of their supposed saviours. I’m guessing if fifty patients escaped from a mental institution all of them suffering from debilitating mental diseases, would we then be body bagging fifty dangerous patients. When we react to the death of an animal like we would the death of a human then we will fully understand equality not just for every human being but every being. Every animal activist/ lover should be outraged over this because escaped animals will continue to be murdered.

  • Amanda A says:

    i am from ohio and I in no way support harm to animals but i believe that in these instances they didnt really have a choice. like one of the comments said, the animals dont always go down with one tranquilizer and they might just run off scared and angry. it was nightime which would have made it harder to find these exotic animals. what if your kid was walking down the road or playing in the background? i know that people would have made an even bigger fuss if their family members are killed so i think we all need to look at this as a sad situation but remember that they did not have many options.

  • cino says:

    Kim wrote earlier ‘see the “Good Ole Boys” are just having the TIME of their lives … hunting big game, no restrictions .. and that was it. I lost respect to those policemen and Jack Hanna (mr. animal lover!). So much more could have been done. Wasted liv es of beautiful and rare animals. I wonder if these 8 tigers were the last ones on Earth would they still have killed it? Marcin from Poland

  • tokindaddy says:

    the blame lies plainly with the owner who killed himself. He should of known before killing himself that releasing these gorgeous animals was in fact giving them a death sentence. The police’s job was protecting the citizens. It’s totally sickening all the way around.

  • Irene Leggett says:

    Another terribly sad story of animals paying the ultimate price for man’s inhumanity to them. Perhaps now the laws will be changed regarding the keeping of ‘wild’ exotic animals. Its also a terribel tragedy that most of the animals had to be shot, without any other forms of control being taken first. ‘Shoot first, think later’ seems to be the motto of the day.

  • PillfordJohnson says:

    Problem is, the tigers, lions, and lionesses, were NOT threats. They were laying in the field just doing what relaxed cats do. The caretaker Mr. Moore said if he were given a chance, he could have put those tigers and lions back in their cages – he raised most of them from pups. They were NON-aggressive… I don’t give a crap what you hear in the media, these cats were not charging anyone at all, and they were showing no signs of trying to escape. Most were shot while laying down on their side. ALL of them were DECLAWED. This is nothing short of murder folks.

  • Maria says:

    This predicament is beyond what I have ever seen. So many animals from endangered species were shot just because of the fact that local authorities were incapable of handling this situation. That is such a disgrace for the state of Ohio!

  • John from Ohio says:

    This was a bad situation to begin with and just a matter of time before something tragic happened. Classic case of a lose/lose situation. There should be laws in Ohio that prevents just anyone owning exotic animals. That’s what PETA should be working on.

  • Kristine "kitty k" Liljemark says:

    these poor animals hadn’t done anything wrong and they were all killed. its things like this that make me despise humanity. PEOPLE were scared? please! these poor, BEAUTIFUL creatures didn’t ask for their negligent owner to send them to their impending doom. they were just as scared, if not more, than the stupid people. i mean think of it this way, kind people of PETA and animal lovers, when a bunch of prison inmates escape from a high security prison, they are tagged, arrested, and sent back to their cell. the only exception in that is if the prisoner has a gun or knife and goes to kill someone. how is it fair that HUMANS get off if they escape, yet animals get shot and killed for being let out. i mean, miss Tippy Hendren has a licensed compound and would have been happy to take these animals. but anyway, thus concludes my rant. thanks for reading.

  • sf94123 says:

    I disagree with the shoot to kill order from the zanesville police. There are over 3050 different non lethal capture methods that could have been implemented within hours of these animals escape. The excuse of night is a poor one since theremany night vision tech and heat signature cameras. Netting, humane traps, and corralling with use of tranks or stun guns could have been used. The Zanesvilke police dept along with Ohio regulations are back dated by 25 years. Shame on them all.

  • sanjuro says:

    This is odious, ODIOUS! And it’s bullshit they HAD to shoot the 48 animals. Did they even try anything else before gunning them down? All problems they solve with killing. They were the ones, these goddamn fools, to put animals there by allowing someone to own exotic animals. It was their responsibility to try everything they could to save them. And to some posts earlier, no, humans are not above any animals, there’s no life ranking that puts a species above another. But there are close to 7 billion people in the world, 7,000,000,000, and only 2,500 Bengal tigers on this same planet.

  • Paige says:

    Im so upset that this happened. i cant believe someone would kill these beautiful animals! Hopefully the rest of the animals will be safe and not harmed. RIP to all those animals

  • bee says:

    what are we going to do about this I’m ready for anything.. I’m so ashamed of being human right now.

  • C says:

    This is so sad. Coming from a city that routinely kills mountain lions, bob cats, etc. I am deeply saddened by the loss of these beautiful animals. when will this ever stop?

  • Stephanie says:

    It is so sad to see inexperienced people taking care of something so delicate ny killing these animals it only shows that humans are not smart enough to knw that animals lifes are as important as human lifes and killing an animal should be punished just as bad as killing a human being

  • Berg from Denmark says:

    I am disguisted by the US laws that ALLOW ordinary people to keep exotic animals, what on EARTH are you DOING???? Shame on the US! Shame!

  • Tatjana fom AZ says:

    Thank you Trisha from Ohio, the animals did not ESCAPE, they had no saying in this… as always, they payed for our wrong doing. The worst, most aggressive, most primitive and dangerous animal in this world is called human being. I am ashamed to be one of them. We certainly are not above other species on this planet, wiguy, we are way below and I wander if we will ever evolve to the level of other animals. We could learn so much from animals, they seem to have much better social systems and stronger family bonds as we do. What happened today is very sad, another example of the daily actions of the biggest monster on Earth. God bless these animals, at least they now don’t have to suffer anymore.

  • Bella says:

    My heart sank to my ankles when I first heard the terrible news and I’m still sad. Humans should NEVER have wild animals as pets. Why was this SOB allowed to keep them in the first place? I hope he is burning in hell, where he belongs!!!! What a disgrace!