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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.
  • jackie singer says:

    they did try to tranqulize them, these were rogue animals. They did what was necessary.State should be to blame, for allowing this man to own them, even after he was charged with animal abuse.

  • Sharon says:

    How can this happen? How did these animals get into the country. I’m from Australia and we can’t have a cat or dog without mico chipping and regestering them. We can’t have exotic pets. Ohio needs to get some laws in place to protect animals from morons like this bloke. Do these people realize how crazy this looked to the rest of the world. Like they say “it could only happen in America”.

  • Maggie says:

    I’d never advocate the death of an animal but I do understand the measures the police took. They had limited time with night time coming on and their prime responsibility is to keep people safe. I hate guns and death; but in this particular situation I really think people should stop blaming the police and look a little deeper. What about the man who caused this problem? I realise he’s now dead. But judging by the convictions mentioned it’s obvious that he and his animals had been brought to the attention of the law before. I read in another article that he’d been convicted in 2005 for cruelty to animals. I would have thought that conviction would be a golden opportunity to confiscate large quantities of animals – especially when those animals have been reported to be roaming the area on previous occasions. Change the laws on exotic animal ownership. I cried for those beautiful animals; but I don’t blame the police at all. Unless you are actually involved in a situation you have no idea how it feels. But I would imagine that knowing that animals that eat you are roaming around in the dark would be absolutely terrifying to deal with. I would also imagine they are quite possibly feeling traumatized as a result; and don’t really need to be condemned for protecting the people they’ve sworn to protect. Tranquilizing isn’t just a case of firing a dart. The animal’s weight needs to be calculated so the correct amount is administered; and this is usually done by a vet… and not with 49 animals at once as the light falls. It would have been better; but logistically it also would have been just about impossible.

  • SaraD says:

    This is not just a sad situation, but an outrage that the government has allowed this stupid idiot and disgrace of a human being to keep these animals and breed them! Get the laws right and enforce them! I’m sure the officers were forced to shoot the animals because the poor animals were scared and disorientated and dangerous because of this. Stop the exotic animal trade, protect these beautiful creatures!

  • michele petocchi says:

    Freedom for all animals, from farm, from vivisections laboratory from zoo….

  • Jim C says:

    Selma7 has it right. It wasn’t the fault of the police, but of the hoarder. We need effective laws to prevent the capture, sale, and hoarding of non-domestic animals.

  • Victoria Haselden says:

    I believe we are all sick at heart about this appalling break down in due care for these animals.Many must have been aware this troubled man was not fit to have a domestic animal let alone wild animals who belong at home in their native habitat or at least in proper sanctuaries. We seem to have lost our way regarding fellow creatures of all stripes in a mad desire to control and own other humans and animals for our own selfish needs. It is time to put down guns and restore proper relationships with fellow mankind and the the animal kingdom on land and sea before it is all lost, a time surely not too far in the future. Let each person say enough,I will look at my life and take a new way no mattter the cost.please do this,Victoria.

  • Jan Garen says:

    There should be a law across the whole of the USA banning trade in exotic animals. For too long those who want to own an exotic animal have been able to do so and in many cases without the protection of animal welfare legislation for their victims.As usual in this latest tragedy in Ohio, the animals have paid the price for human failings.I cannot begin to imagine the life the chimpanzees and orang utans have led – what is to happen to them now, especially in a State where the Governor seems not to care.

  • Xénia Edvinsson says:

    I am saddened and horrified about this incident! How can Ohio not have ANY regulations regarding exotic animals?! I hope that laws will now be put in place to change this and to stop anything like this ever happening again. It is shocking that these magnificent animals are treated in this way and says a lot about the society we live in. Please Gov. Kasich, wake up and enact laws to ban private persons from owning exotic and dangerous animals!

  • Kam says:

    Exotic animals should be in their own habitats and not kept as ‘pets’ or some egotistical purposes by some people. The only places if they are taken out of their natural habitat due to deforestation and selfish human needs should be conservation areas. It beggars belief that the Officials in the State of Ohio allowed this man to keep these animals. Were checks made as to his state of mind and if he was capable of looking after them?

  • Veronica Munro says:

    Sadly, human beings are for the most part, always responsible for ill-treatment of animals – yet they have the larger brain! Leave the animals in the wild where they belong!

  • jake says:

    I am as upset as anybody else about the senseless lives were lost in Ohio. But it baffles me that nobody is thinking about the facts: law enforcement in this case had no choice but put the animals down. Don’t blame the officers; blame the jerk that had these creatures to begin with.

  • mish says:

    I am truly disgusted with people when I hear news like this. It just proves on how barbaric and cruel people can be towards animals. Let us not forget that animals feel too and they are just protecting and defending themselves from us. We have no right to kill them. The police department should have tried every other way to catch them before resulting to killing them. A lot of them were still within the area of the farm when they were slaughtered! Did they not know that these beautiful creatures are on the brink of extinction and are ENDANGERED! Especially the Bengal tigers! So wrong. I seriously am ashamed to be human whenever abuse towards animals happens. I will always have more pity and empathy for animals than any person. I respect them more.

  • Love Tigers says:

    SOMETHING smells very wrong here. Doesn’t anyone think it is odd the owner of 50 animals would let them out then shoot himself? If the animals were that crazed and dangerous they would have eaten him. Where was the other help on the ranch? Orders from the sheriff was SHOOT TO KILL. Very suspicious. Not to mention the loss of innocent and near extinct lives…such a tragedy. All of those in the community should be ashamed for not taking any responsibility to get help for these creatures before it ended in this heartbreaking disaster.

  • Adventures of Harry says:

    The deputies reported that the tranquilizers that were used aggravated the animals. If the tranquilizer aggravated the animals, they could have shot large nylon nets to trip and slow down the animals until they were sedated. Each of these animals was shot with a GUN after all. The deputies could most definitely have shot the tranqulizer and then, the net. These animals did not have to die.

  • DylanJB says:

    I just can;t understand how people can allow this type of situation to develope in the first place. This man should not have been allowed to be keeping these animals. Laws should be put in place and enforced to prevent this. What’s up Ohio?!

  • melanie says:

    I just cannot even believe they didnt try to dart these animals. I dont think their “reason” for using lethal force was in any way warranted. So it might get dark and they will roam, well couldnt they have monitored them with helicopters or something? dont they use them to track criminals at night?? why didnt they at least try to dart some of them before nightfall I dont get it, it just seemed like a case of gunghoe hunter types on the force getting excited about shooting some “game” . Disgusting, unnecessary and incredibly sad. they should be ashamed of the way they handled this situation….

  • Wilma P. says:

    This whole situation was horrid and devastating. Those animals did not deserve to be shot down as if they were in a canned hunt. There is no way that stronger tranquilizers were not available. There are much larger animals that are sedated and relocated. To Heather: Good for you! You are so right to have cared about those animals. That is the problem now. People do not care. Many view these beautiful creatures as things, property, insignificant creatures, since they are not human. Animals should be revered as a gift. They should be respected, and even though the individual should not have had a private zoo, certainly should not have freed them in that manner, and should have contacted authorities to properly relocate them, they should not have died as they did, either. Too much testosterone? A chance to “legally” hunt big game? Reprehensible.

  • Roxana says:

    This is a real tragedy. The animals should have never been killed but tranquilized and moved to a safer place. Now Not only Ohio needs to make the prohibition of ownership of exotic animals a law but the other states that have no regulations with exotic animals kept as “pets”. People think these animals are like dogs and cats? No way! besides being inhumane, this represents a great danger for people.

  • Andrea says:

    Once again it’s the innocent animals that pay the price for humans inhumanity. Anybody who doesn’t see that is perhaps the same as the uncaring not-to-bright human that started this mess.

  • Michelle says:

    I think it is absolutely unacceptable that these animals were killed! Clearly, there was an alternative to outright killing them. My heart aches for them. When will we treat animals humanely? I want everyone to look at their slain bodies & ask truthfully – was this right?

  • Surfer1 says:

    I don’t understand why they couldn’t tranquilize the animals and have a vet check them for diseases. Why did they have to kill them? I mean the poor animals lived out their lives locked up and then they just kill them. Sad ending to a sad life. God will take better care of them in heaven, since humans couldn’t on earth.

  • Luke Swanhart says:

    Most of them were shot and killed. Among those slaughtered were 18 ENDANGERED Bengal tigers. I put 100% blame on the law makers who let fruit cakes wackos keep exotic animals. There needs to be a FEDERAL ban on keeping exotic animals.

  • dee says:

    sad. just so sad. laws need to be changed.

  • diane Schinella says:

    no exotic animaks allowed

  • ash says:

    if he was charged with animal cruelty why weren’t these animals taken away

  • Carrie olivari says:

    Horrifying!!! The poor animals had to pay for this stupidity.

  • Michelle says:

    I have sat here and read page after page of comments. I am truly in shock, mortified and disgusted by what has happened! These beautiful creatures who were here before we ever were, taken down execution style and murdered barbarically! It sickens me!!! The fact that the Authorities did not remove these animals years ago and bring them to safety is appalling! We have the resources and manpower to capture animals! We have freakin zoos all over the world for crying out loud!!! There was no immediate danger! There was time to organize and protect these animals through sedation! Some big bad cop gave the order to shoot to kill and a mass murder took place! God is surely weeping as he looked down upon this bloodshed! I picture Noahs ark and how important the animals were to God! They were held in the highest regard as humans when 2 of each kind were loaded aboard that ark and what has mankind done to the animals since then? How any one who shed the blood of our beautiful animals can look in the mirror and say i did the right thing is beyond me. I just know my heart is breaking. This needs to be investigated further and someone needs to pay for this.

  • Brian says:

    I agree that there really was no other choice for the police but to shoot these poor creatures. The blame lies solely on the owner who let them free! Of course he obviously had mental health issues, so it’s even difficult to put the blame on him as well. Nobody in his right mind would have done such a thing knowing the outcome and committed suicide as well. Laws do need to be put into place that will prevent people from owning these exotice animals, especially so close to a residential area. It probably needs to be made at a federal level, since many states will just drag their feet, such as the case here. Write to your local congressman and senators and express your views. If enough people do that, maybe something will be done to avert these kind of tragedies. This is an extreme case, but unfortunately not an isolated one. Too many private owners are keeping animals that they are ill prepared to maintain.

  • Giovanna says:

    First of all, Ohio should indeed have laws banning such exotic farms. Period. What is wrong with this country? We are a bunch of independent “states” that each have their own set of laws and regulations. Shouldn’t we be a UNITED States of America, and have laws to protect abuse of animals, children, people and what not, regardless of where we live in this country??? California has strict regulations regarding such nut cases who want to start an exotic farm. Why can’t Ohio follow suit? Not that Ohio is any sort of tourist destination, but let me tell you, I will NEVER spend any tourist dollars in that state, and will encourage my web site visitors (I operate a US travel site) to ever visit Ohio until they clean up their act. What a sad disgrace.

  • Laura Goodwin says:

    What a shame…… the unfortunate method in which tragic situations are managed – created by the insane – cause the death of the innocents….. The person was allowed to keep Endangered and exotic creatures…after the negative interactions, warnings, problematic calls by neighbors….etc… Still allowed! Need to protect all living beings from those lacking reasonable thoughts!!!! This is the outcome???!!! Good God!

  • monique says:

    ngements were made.Poor planning and pure exploitation of animals isint that was caused a unforgiving domino effect like this one? Maybe mankind can learn a lesson from this…

  • ruth says:

    Senseless cruelty that could have been prevented. Laws should have been implemented to not allow such animals to be exploited as “pets” and then followed by a plan to avoid a slaughter

  • Heleniak says:

    Having a law to prohibit the keeping of exotic animals it’s important. But right, we should be focusing on creating a sue against the police department, and especially against the person who gave the order to shoot those animals. Yes, the man who kept the animals did the wrong thing. But after they were released, shoot them? SHOOT THEM AND KILL THEM!!??? REALLY?? Come on people!

  • mohawkgirl says:

    I agree with Selma7. This was a horrible situation with an outcome that was bound to be tragic.Please keep in mind that the gov. of Ohio is Republican, and could care less about these animals and the obscene exotic a nimal trade. My heart just aches for those beautiful creatures.

  • Amanday82 says:

    I have been following this on the net and on our news stations. I live close to there and I to think it is a tragedy because for one Ohio residents or any regular citizen should not be aloud to have these types of animals. I think it is bad that they had to kill these animals but then again they had to work on this at the spur of the moment and there are many people I am sure that don’t have cable and they may not know whats going on and be outside weather it be kids or adults and one of these animals could come up and kill them. I love animals and I dont believe in abusing animals I just hope they crack down on these people who do have these types of farms there is no need for this. The zoos should be the only places wild animals like those should be. They need stricter laws.

  • Yvette says:

    tranquilizers don’t work at night? Are you serious…what happens do they turn the animals into vicious werewolves? D: -reply @ KD-

  • Alex says:

    They had all right to shoot wild animals in an urban setting where they could have attacked innocent people. Human life before animal life and before you say these animals are harmless, look what a chimpanzee did to that woman a couple years ago, tore her face off. If these animals really were mistreated and such they would be angry and violent. cut the police some slack they dealt with this the best they could.

  • Lori1 says:

    This is such a heartbreaking story, especially the Bengal Tigers, that endangered as it is, So Sad.

  • Linsu says:

    tranquilizer guns didn’t work-that is an outright lie. They are used by people who study and check health of wildlife and can bring down an elephant or grizzly bear! escaped convicts have rights, but poor scared animals have none-so sad!

  • AmberAlert says:

    These animals should have been tranquilized and not put to death. PERIOD. It is unfathomable the way this situation was handled.

  • martha maldonado says:


  • Nancy says:

    The State of Ohio FAILED these animals. This cruel place should have been shut down long ago. And yes, these animals COULD have been tranquilized & rescued instead of shot. Hope they prosecute the people that ran this and investigate other ”private zoos/ranches.”

  • Eileen says:

    Àmen to ‘jen-not from Ohio’, carol and so many others who see that what was done here was that further tragedy was prevented for people and animals both. There are thanks due to those who prevented that.

  • Stephan R says:

    I have no respect for the “law enforcement” officers that went to scene READY to kill these animals. I can imagine that it was a big thrill for them. Their actions disgust me.

  • CGB says:

    This is the worst animal tragedy on the planet. What ever happened to “Bless the Beasts and the Children”? I can’t even imagine how terrible the day must have been for the Ohio authorities. Caught between hops. How is it that this situation fell between the cracks?

  • Hrabina Krystyna says:

    Strange, isn’t it, that no humans were harmed and such drastic action was taken so quickly, without forethought, without consequences, without concern for the animals at all.

  • SYBILLE says:


  • Pilar says:

    The laws in Ohio (and Michigan) when it comes to allowing keeping exotc animals MUST be changed. Keeping them only encourages the endagered animals trade, since it is not legislated, nobody knows where animals are bein abused and we face cases like this. THIS MUST STOP, we have nop bussiness holding animals other than the domesticated ones in our houses.

  • Jose Americo says:

    So few tigers left in the world and people still don´t care about them, if these tigers were the last ones I guess they would not care and kill them anyway.