Ohio man releases exotic animals into wild before suicide
Terry Thompson, released from prison a few weeks ago on gun possession charges and still under house arrest, released his 56 exotic pets into the wilds of Ohio before killing himself. The irresponsible action of the owner resulted in the death of 49 animals; a monkey remains on the lam, while the other six were captured and are to be placed into local zoos.
The final count of animal life taken was six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one baboon, three mountain lions, 18 tigers and two wolves.
Police claim to have attempted to capture them, but lacked equipment to non-violently capture so many large animals, especially at night, and cited public safety as their highest priority. Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz recalled an incident with one of the Bengal tigers where the creature became aggressive after a tranquilizer had failed to subdue it.
ABC consulted with a local Columbus animal expert and host of the shows Animal Adventures and Into the Wild, Jack Hanna in the ensuing hunt. He's called it one of the worst events he's seen in his entire career:
I'm sorry for what happened to these animals. But also for what could have happened to people. Let's hope this never has to happen again in any state. This is a tragedy for the animal world. It could have been a bigger tragedy for the human world.
Not everyone agrees that the situation was handled properly. Huffington Post columnist (and environmental activist) Glenn Hurowitz says Jack Hanna had a history of being used as a spokespiece trying to quell controversial dealings with animals, including an interview at last year's killer whale incident at Sea World.
As things go back to normal, the event has brought about the desire for a ban on exotic pets in the state of Ohio, and surely in other states, as the story has garnered national coverage. In the end though, if this incident proves anything, it is that a dangerous animal should not be left in charge of dangerous animals. Ultimately, the man who owned these creatures was the one who sentenced them to death. It is truly a shame that he would involve the animals he cared for in his own personal turmoils.