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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.
  • neighborlee says:

    hi,,,Too often in this world, we uncover tragedies that unfold because of bad local and federal policies and the ineptness of those involved to enforced what we have. Everyone knew about these animals ( sheriffs office included) , yet they didn’t have enough staff and/or darts to sedate these magnificient creatures ? You can say stop accusing officials locally as they did what they had to do, and maybe so due to time of day, but I still smell something not exaCtly right, given ‘6’ animals were sedated, and we got no details about how that went down precisely. The public deserves to know how it all unfolded, because some of us care about those, whom are the least capable of defending themselves against unjustice. We are their voices and we must act as one, but always be fair when we uncover truth that points to necessity of the given situation. More details are needed, just as more was needed in such cases as ‘seaworld’ and mr hanna. I do not trust him, therefore this whole process is tainted far as Im concerned. We must be the voice of the animals and uncover anything remaining. My thoughts and prayers goto the animals, and those everywhere recovering from this horrific incident; and yes take a stand to make sure this never is allowed again, because Ohio had/has the worst record for exotic animals protections, but I think I heard yesterday, they are ( again: hannah mentioned it on CNN ) fixing it so in a few weeks ? ohio would be your ‘worst nightmare’ to cage and give mproper care to exotics. Can anyone verify ?

  • biljana says:

    Those who neglected and tolerate existing of should be severely punish. This is abnormal cruelty over helpless animals. WITHOUT LAW REGULATIONS IN OHIO, ITS NOT STATE.

  • Cynthia says:

    I don’t understand why the authorities didn’t tranquilize ALL of the animals (only a few) and then relocate them to a safe preserve? What’s with this gun-happy nation?

  • Gina Powell says:

    A trajedy indeed. The biggest trajedy is the governor who refused to extend the ban on private ownership of exotic animals. Let’s all write the state of Ohio where the blame squarely lies. There should be a nationwide BAN BAN BAN on ownership of exotic animals.

  • Katalin Allen says:

    It’s a shame that wildlife officials didn’t suggest tranquelizer guns and move the animals to sanctuaries? I would think this is what wildlife enforcement is about. It’s ironic that police are paid to protect people from dangerous situations by KILLING. Who’s the dangerous one? These animals were obviously running in fear after being kept for how many years by an abusive owner. It’s sad to see how self-serving and apathetic society can be. Hatred breeds hatred. Animals have every right to fear man. Shame on Ohio state officials for allowing such a situation to arise. Ban exotic animals from the common lay persons hands and both will be safer.

  • Ms.P says:

    ..the entire situation is sad…simply sad!!

  • Laura Briskman-Ferguson says:

    Tranquilizers work anytime of the day. It is the operator who can not see. Therefore, tranquilizers need to be modernized, updated and fit with a scope or night vision capabilities. The fact that by 2011 this has never been considered, tried or explored, floors me to no end! This whole incident in inexcusable! Way to go Ohio!!!

  • sea says:

    oh and p.s. everyone involved was to blame…from the person who was keeping the animals in the first place (wrong) to the high ups who ordered that they all be shot (wrong) to the ones who did the shooting (wong)…everyone in the world has choices and no one had to choose the wrong one in this case…NO ONE.

  • sea says:

    so what was so wrong with tranquilizing and relocating? it looks to me like someone just got a little too excited about using their guns…this was handles soooooo wrong

  • Gena says:

    This is such a tragedy. I am unsure why someone felt compelled to let wild animals free and why the state allowed him to possess those animals in the first place. I am outraged at the media coverage of the situation and am in question as to why the animals were shot rather than subdued. We should really begin to question how we as a nation treat our living beings.

  • michelle says:

    I hope ya’ll(peta) is going to do something about this especially to the sheriff.He could have used tranquilizer. They are beautiful Tigers you can’t get the wild out of the animals. They are extinct animals

  • LeastDuck says:

    Perhaps the wake-up call will be heard this time. Politicians pay attention to VOTES. These animals had no voice in the level of their care. Where was Jack Hanna of Columbus Zoo fame? I’d bet a dollar to a donut he’s physically sick over this. I know I am. I am thankful nobody got mauled. PLEASE just start VOTING from your heart.

  • Andrew7x says:

    Cant believe this has happened!! These animals are already nearly extinct and this has happened??!! So they’ve obviously been captured and have lived in solitude, caged for probably their whole life, then they’re technically ‘let free’ and end up getting shot… I feel something better could have been done to save these animals, I know it was late and it’s not good to tranquilise them at night but something could have been done! Looks like we’ve helped tip the balance of extinction. Waste of innocent lives!!

  • Cameron says:

    Its such a tragedy that the police shot the animals. What about the interests of all of the people who would love to take Big Game Hunter II to the next level?

  • carla says:

    This is so damn sad. Shame on these damn people and the idiot government for allowing this to happen!!! These are wild animals and should stay wild!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Angela says:

    I understand the safety of the people was more important. But it’s so sad because of one sick person this had to happen. What kind of messed up system ALLOWS someone to have these animals as pets (and so many). They are meant to be in the wild, or a zoo where they can be cared for properly. This is so upsetting. That image that shows piles of dead tigers makes me SICK

  • Rachel1066 says:

    While there are some people blaming the police, I think most of us in Ohio are furious that Governor Kasich and the Ohio government have done nothing to prevent private citizens from owning exotic animals. What happened in Zanesville only reiterates that individuals have no business owning wild animals. I’ve encouraged people to write to the governor and ODNR asking them to immediately ban private citizens from owning wild animals.

  • tonyacls says:

    Signed sealed and delivered. All government agencies in that state are to blame for this disgusting display of neglect.

  • rene breier, ph.d says:

    the killing of dozens of wild animals in Ohio is atrocious. This was an insane knee jerk reaction. the assumption that these animals that had been confined for years would immediatley seek out humans and kill them is absurd. There was no thinking at all. Just shoot and kill. Could people have been ordered to get inside their homes until a plan was made? Until appropriate measures to save the animals could be made? No, just shoot and kill. Ohio and the rest of America should take heed. NO freedom to keep wild animals especially those that are extremely endangered, such as all the cats.This is not freedom but the abuse of magnificent wild animals that belong in the wild and not in cages or people’s homes.

  • AL says:

    Sheriff Matthew Lutz of Anesville is the one that gave orders to shoot and kill all the exotic and endangered animals. Lutz is at 740-452-3637. Governor John Kasich is the one that failed to enforced a ban on exotic and endangered animals in Ohio 614-466-3555

  • Hilary says:

    Blood is on the soul of the govenor, owner of these animals and anyone that shot these animals. You have to live with yourself, you are the ones that looked at innocent animals and killed them. Tranquilizing most definitely works, your argument is bullshit. Where did these exotic bodies end up, someones trophy wall of shame?? Prevention is the only answer. Get involved and prevent these slaughters from happening. You’ll all a disgrace. No one was forced into anything, this all was PREVENTABLE! Don’t remain ignorant!

  • adaline zalkin, md says:

    the gov has blood on his hands. this has to change.

  • Mary says:

    This is an example of how sick mankind is. The loss of these animals is a tragedy! Ohio had THE WEAKEST animal rights laws in the USA. I hope they are proud of themselves! There are a mere 1400 Bengal tigers left in the world and 18 of them were gunned down in cold blood by this freak! Time to say enough already!

  • KJ says:

    It’s tragic for everyone involve! The most disturbing thing to me it how Mr. Thompson sealed these beautiful animals fate by opening the cages before he took his own life. How selfish! These animals would not have been killed and found homes in various places. Only Mr. Thompson knows why he did what he did and folks can speculate all they want whether it was to spite his estranged wife or if he couldnt have them then nobody could. Just plain selfish. The officers were not trained to deal with this situation and are all upset they were put in this position. These poor creatures did not ask to be put in this situation and only the State can stop this trade from happening. Many auctions are held in Amish country . I think the Ban of exotic animals as well as the ban on Puppy Mills should go under a blanket law! Folks should stick to making an honest living instead of off the creatures that have no say so in what is being done to them. Its all tragic! I agree instead of bashing all involved contact your State Representative and voice your disgust!

  • Sandy says:

    I’m so mad right now about how this whole thing was handled. No reason to kill anything just beause “man” are horrible to animals. Glad that tiger bit that man in the head, but should have done it before he killed himself. Poor innocent animals, it sucks.

  • Valerie says:

    Something like this should have never happened, exotic animals like this should not have been held in capitivity by a man like that, our governor needs place a ban on exoctic animals so there in never, ever another tragedy like this. There is never enough protection for the animal, exotic or domestic, this needs to change.

  • Tamara.Keegan says:

    This is a horrendous, horrendous story and blight. NO ONE should ever be allowed to keep exotic wild animals as pets! It’s inhumane and cruel.

  • Marlaina says:

    More should have been done to prevent these animals’ deaths. All those exotic animals HAD to die? Especially including the endangered ones?? I don’t think so. Just plain ridiculous. I blame that guy who released them and the state government for allowing it. There needs to be a penalty for those who are at fault of this horrendous massacre.

  • Allison says:

    These animals are not ferocious or crazy!!!! They are wild. Big difference. These animals had NO CHOICE.. It was our duty to protect them and we didn’t. No fault but our own this tragedy occured. They are not meant to be caged up.

  • denise says:

    What a disgrace for these poor beautiful animals to end there life,s like that ok oboviously the OHIO POLICE panicked but to slaughter the animals is just so sad and as for the govenor of OHIO i think he should think about the wildlife of our era as the way the are getting poached,ill treated,etc is just beyond me is there no justice for them or do we as a world supposed to be of all animal lover,s just don,t care any more we have become that greedy for fur,s, healing remedies etc it,s all getting out of hand so please Mr Kasich have a bit of decorium and put a ban on people keeping such animals in your state.

  • Mauricio Perez says:

    I dont understand why not use tranquilizer darts ?… Why allways are killing animals ?

  • Pam says:

    If they could find them to load they guns and shoot them, why did they not try and sedate first? Terrible, what were they thinking?

  • Sad n TN says:

    What a sad day. These poor animals paid the price (once again) for the crimes of selfish humans. These animals should have never been in this man’s possession.

  • Eva says:

    People should not own wild animals without a proper place to house and care for them like a zoo or let them remain where they are

  • G Thomas says:

    The deaths of these animals were the fault of the hoarder who kept them, NOT the law enforcement officers. It takes 10 to 20 minutes for a tranquilizer dart to take effect. In that time, the animal is stilla active. The law enforcement officers were in an impossible situation–created by Thompson and by the Ohio laws that allowed him to keep these poor creatures in deplorable conditions.

  • ANA EBERT says:

    It is unbelievable that Ohio does not have legislation to stop this , come on people we are on the 21st century you know ??? What are you waiting for , wild animals are as the name says WILD, and that is where they belong, ridiculous and cruel that is what this affair , is but then again they are shooting wolves now , so what else can I say ??

  • Mysty says:

    I saw the sheriff when it was first released. He DID think he was some sort of bit shot! It was a shoot to kill order. He was proud of it. Now he can tell his grandkids one day how he shot big game wild animal (yeah, in OHIO! Anyone that’s half a shot could have done it!). The NEXT day he was saying it was “sad,” so someone told him to tame it down! Yeah, he enjoyed it! Don’t fool yourself. And they didn’t try to tranquelize FIRST until AFTER they’d killed 30 or 40 animals – and there was some outrage! There is no reason they couldn’t try tranqulizers first, and shoot if necessary. Do I think ALL of the plice enjoyed it? No, I know they all didn’t. Do I think some did – absolutely! Akin to canned hunting, and they loved it. I am against the total ban of exotics, however, as I know of cases where people have saved smaller exotics (e.g., squirrels) that could not be re-released into their natural habitat, and they are very well cared for and loved – and they DID plan to rerelease, but sometimes there are extenuating circumsances. For those, they should need certification – and review. The news did NOT repot that the man was brought up on animal abuse charges – hummmmm. That’s very telling. Why did he still have them?! Outrageous.

  • Haydn says:

    Yes, I believe they enjoyed the thrill of the killings. This is just a disgrace. Don’t tell us otherwise.

  • AuBree says:

    This may have already been said.. But As i cannot read all of the comments I am unsure. I am an animal lover, HOWEVER, when you have this many wild animals on the loose it isnt a shoot first ask later situation.. It’s a shoot first and know you ensured public safety. These police departments aren’t equipped with tranq guns!! Even if they have them, it isnt like they are going to have enough for every officer to have one. They had to protect their citizens. And as sad as it is that these animals had to die, there was not other real option. Save the ones you can, but you have to put down the ones you can’t. I am all about saving animals, but not at the sake of humans

  • MaureenTO says:

    Why are there no FEDERAL laws?

  • Janet says:

    Apparently, it was discussed about tranquilizing instead of shooting. It was decided that with minimal daylight hours left, that darting, tracking and finding the animals before they woke up would be too risky. I don’t believe the officers wanted to kill all of these animals, but were forced to due to the situation. I blame 1. the owner 2. the lack of laws prohibiting keeping exotic animals as pets. It is really a shame.

  • vickie says:

    you supporters of the sherif sure don’t listen to well do you? the sherif and cops and animal people new about this for yrs,he was charged with animal abuse, they could of gotten all those tigers and bears and wolves yrs ago when they were ALL behind inclousures,but they didn’t did they and the whiney neighbor y didn’t she act huh? cos she had to bitch about something. i get so sick of people whining about haveing kids and what if, hell a pedifile can grab a kid and kill it on a daily basis but idiot parents still let there little ones out and about without supervision all the time. that guy had these animals along time and no one got hurt or attacked or killed by them. and yeah that lion went crazy so what after all it was darted but before that it wasn’t doing anything. no one of those animals went after anyone. and all you people that go to the zoos and stuff are just as much at fault you pay zoos to see captured animals so you are supporting people owning them to. if no one supported the zoos and other animal attractions they’d have to shut down.

  • JMB says:

    It was more like just shoot first b/c they don’t seem to care about the welfare of those animals…what a sad sight!!!

  • cantbangel says:

    ohio needs a law protecting its animals from gun toting deputies. where are marlon perkins and jim fowler when we need them?

  • erica says:

    I think its great to get on here and rant your fits, but if we all could understand that this problem should have NEVER been a problem in the first place then it would not have ended the way it did. Mr. Thompson never should have had those animals. WHY did he? WHY was he allowed to?

  • Jinny Lee says:

    I mourn for the animals.

  • [email protected] says:

    Alright, the tranquilizers only work on an animal of a certain size. Unfourtunantly for everyone, the tranqs the officers were supplied with were created for small house animals. They honestly had no choice, and would have gone with another option if they could. As for those of you who believe that they are murderers, they were protecting HUMANS from animals who are dangerous by nature.

  • Sara says:

    This story is devistating. I just don’t understand…why would this man do this? Why would they not explore other options to try to save these animals? Something needs to be done to prevent this tragedy and others like this from happening again.


    Love Animals

  • Barbara Pascarelli says:

    unfortunately it ususally takes a tragedy including loss of life to make changes. this was a horrible tragedy and the only thing we can hope is that they we learn from this and that the laws are changed.