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UPDATE: State: Ohio Wild Animal Law Doesn't Violate Rights

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

UPDATED 07/03/2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Attorneys for Ohio are telling a federal appeals court that the state's exotic animal law doesn't violate the constitutional rights of owners.

Several owners are suing the state's agriculture director over the rules. They contend the regulations limit their freedom of association by essentially forcing them to join organizations they don't support, among other restrictions.

Attorneys for the state say the law offers ways for the owners to keep their animals without joining the organizations.

The state's response came Wednesday in a brief filed with the 6th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

A federal judge in Columbus last year sided with the state and upheld the law.

Ohio's regulations were enacted following the 2011 release of dozens of wild creatures by a suicidal owner in Zanesville.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATED 12/20/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A federal judge has upheld Ohio's new restrictions on exotic animals after several owners sued the state over the law.

The judge in Columbus ruled Thursday the owners failed to prove constitutional rights were violated.

Seven owners had claimed the law forces them to join private associations with which they disagree and possibly give up their animals without compensation. They also challenged a requirement that animals be implanted with a microchip, which would allow the creatures to be identified if they get lost or escape.

Ohio officials have defended the law as a common sense measure to address the growing public safety problem of private ownership of exotic animals.

State lawmakers passed the tougher restrictions after a suicidal owner released dozens of creatures from his farm in Zanesville last year.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATED: 10/04/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state of Ohio is helping a woman find a new out-of-state home for eight exotic animals because she can't meet the requirements of the new law that sets stricter guidelines for keeping them.

State agriculture department spokeswoman Erica Pitchford Hawkins said the state is assisting the unnamed Perry County woman with relocating the four lions and four bears to a sanctuary in Colorado.

She said the state is not bearing any of the cost of the transfer.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that at least some of the animals previously belonged to a suicidal Zanesville man who released dozens of exotic animals from his property last fall.

That high-profile incident prompted a new Ohio law cracking down on ownership of exotics. It took effect Sept. 5.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATED: 09/14/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The sheriff who oversaw the response to an exotic animal release in eastern Ohio says he hasn't received calls or complaints about five surviving animals since they were returned to the property.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz (recounted the incident during a state government-hosted symposium for public information officers Friday in Columbus. He says he doesn't second-guess his decision to order that authorities kill several dozen tigers, lions, bears and other animals apparently set free by their suicidal owner near Zanesville last October.

More recently, the sheriff's office dealt with the case of a severely burned woman who was found along a rural road and later died.
Lutz says it was a gruesome scene and that has made it more difficult to deal with than the exotic animal escape.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATED: 09/04/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Owners of exotic animals in Ohio must soon start registering their creatures with the state once a new law takes effect on Wednesday.

The state's restrictions on exotic pets have been among the nation's weakest. Efforts to regulate dangerous wildlife took on new urgency last fall, when a suicidal owner released dozens of exotic animals.

The updated law will immediately ban people from buying new lions, leopards or other dangerous animals. Owners will have to register existing wildlife with the Ohio Department of Agriculture by Nov. 5 and show they've inserted a microchip into the creatures in case they escape or get lost.

Current owners could keep their bears, alligators and other beasts by obtaining a new state-issued permit by 2014 and show they can adhere to strict new standards.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


UPDATED 6/05/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's governor has signed into law the state's widely watched new regulations on exotic animals.

Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation at a Statehouse ceremony Tuesday afternoon. Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna appeared at the signing, along with state lawmakers and other Ohio officials.

Regulatory efforts took on new urgency in October, when a suicidal owner released dozens of exotic animals from his farm near Zanesville.

The measure, which takes effect in three months, would ban people from buying new dangerous exotic animals.

Current owners could keep their creatures by registering them with the state within 60 days of the bill's effective date. Owners would also have to obtain a new state-issued permit by 2014 and adhere to strict new caretaking standards.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's widely watched new regulations on exotic animals are scheduled to be signed into law on Tuesday.

Gov. John Kasich's office says he plans to sign the legislation at a Statehouse ceremony. Celebrity zookeeper Jack Hanna is slated to appear at the signing, along with state lawmakers and other officials.

Regulatory efforts took on new urgency in October, when a suicidal owner released dozens of exotic animals from his farm near Zanesville.

The measure, which takes effect in three months, would ban people from buying new dangerous exotic animals.

Current owners could keep their creatures by registering their animals with the state 60 days after the bill takes effect, obtaining a new state-issued permit by 2014 and showing they can adhere to strict new standards.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall before he committed suicide has returned to her farm with the five animals that survived.

The two leopards, two primates and a bear had been held at the Columbus zoo for six months, but were released to Marian Thompson Friday after a quarantine was lifted.

Thompson picked up the animals in a large trailer and made the drive from Columbus east to Zanesville in about an hour.

Zoo officials criticized the condition of the property where the animals were held when they were released.

Thompson's attorney has said she has adequate cages for them. Ohio's agriculture department says nothing in state law allows them to inspect the farm.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio zoo has returned five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall before he committed suicide.

Marian Thompson retrieved her two leopards, two primates and a bear from the Columbus zoo on Friday. One spotted leopard that was also sent there had to be euthanized.

The animals have been held at the zoo since October. That's when Thompson's husband released 56 exotic animals from their Zanesville farm in eastern Ohio before killing himself. Authorities were
forced to shoot 48 creatures.

Thompson had previously tried to get the animals back, but a state-issued quarantine was placed on them.

Ohio's agriculture director lifted the order on Monday. Medical results released last week showed all five animals are free of dangerous or infectious diseases.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio zoo has returned five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall before he committed suicide.

Marian Thompson retrieved her two leopards, two primates and a bear from the Columbus zoo on Friday. One spotted leopard that was also sent there had to be euthanized.

The animals have been held at the zoo since October. That's when Thompson's husband released 56 exotic animals from their Zanesville farm in eastern Ohio before killing himself. Authorities were
forced to shoot 48 creatures.

Thompson had previously tried to get the animals back, but a state-issued quarantine was placed on them.

Ohio's agriculture director lifted the order on Monday. Medical results released last week showed all five animals are free of dangerous or infectious diseases.

USDA inspectors are following the horse trailer as it leaves the zoo.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The widow of a suicidal man who released dozens of wild creatures last fall has arrived at an Ohio zoo to retrieve five exotic animals.

About a dozen staffers were outside a loading area behind the zoo as a truck driven by Marian Thompson, pulling a silver horse trailer, arrived at the facility Friday morning. She was speaking
to the staffers and smiling as the animals were loaded into the trailer in cages and crates.

Two leopards, two primates and a bear have been held at the Columbus zoo since October under a state-issued quarantine order, which was lifted Monday.

Thompson is the widow of Terry Thompson, who released 56 animals - including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers – before he committed suicide. Authorities were forced to kill 48 of the animals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The widow of a suicidal man who released dozens of wild creatures last fall has arrived at an Ohio zoo to retrieve five exotic animals.

Zoo staffers could be seen outside a loading area behind the zoo as a truck driven by Marian Thompson, pulling a silver horse trailer, arrived at the facility Friday morning. She could be seen
speaking to the staffers.

Two leopards, two primates and a bear have been held at the Columbus zoo since October under a state-issued quarantine order, which was lifted Monday.

The zoo was to return the animals to Thompson on Friday.

Thompson is the widow of Terry Thompson, who released 56 animals - including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers – before he committed suicide. Authorities were forced to kill 48 of the animals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The widow of a suicidal man who released dozens of wild creatures last fall has arrived at an Ohio zoo to retrieve five exotic animals.

Zoo staffers could be seen outside a loading area behind the zoo as a truck driven by Marian Thompson, pulling a silver horse trailer, arrived at the facility Friday morning. She could be seen speaking to the staffers.

Two leopards, two primates and a bear have been held at the Columbus zoo since October under a state-issued quarantine order, which was lifted Monday.

The zoo was to return the animals to Thompson on Friday.

Thompson is the widow of Terry Thompson, who released 56 animals- including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers – before he committed suicide. Authorities were forced to kill 48 of the animals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A spokeswoman for an Ohio zoo says details are still being worked out for transferring five exotic animals back to a woman whose suicidal husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall.

Patty Peters of the Columbus zoo says the facility's staff spoke Tuesday afternoon to Marian Thompson's veterinarian to begin coordinating the animals' transfer.

Two leopards, two primates and a bear have been held at the zoo since October under a state-issued quarantine order. That quarantine was lifted Monday.

Peters says the transfer would not happen Wednesday, and no date has been set.

She says one of the first hurdles is deciding what crates to use. Thompson's crates would have to meet federal guidelines. If the animals were transported in the zoo's steel crates, Thompson would need a forklift.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATE 4/30/2012 12:20 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio officials say they will allow for the
return of five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband
released dozens of wild creatures last fall before he committed
suicide.

The Ohio Agriculture Department announced the decision Monday at
an agency hearing in which they were to defend state's authority to
quarantine the animals on suspicion of infectious diseases.

It's unclear when the animals would be released to Marian Thompson.

Ohio's agriculture director was expected to lift the quarantine
later Monday.

Thompson's husband released dozens of exotic animals from their
Zanesville farm Oct. 18 before killing himself.

Authorities were forced to shoot 48 creatures. Three leopards,
two primates and a bear survived and have been held at the Columbus
zoo. One leopard later had to be euthanized.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATE: 4/26/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it has no plans to further investigate the death of a spotted leopard held under a state-issued quarantine at an Ohio zoo after an exotic animal escape.

Spokesman Dave Sacks said Thursday the agency sees it as a closed matter.

A keeper was moving the leopard between enclosures in late January when it unexpectedly reversed course as a door was being lowered.

The leopard suffered injuries, and the state veterinarian decided to euthanize it.

A USDA inspector cited the Columbus zoo in February for improper handling of the leopard and for not having enough trained staff present for shifting the animal.

A recently released USDA report regarding a follow-up inspection in March shows the zoo has properly addressed those issues.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATE: 4/25/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The state Senate has passed a bill to ban Ohioans from acquiring new exotic animals and regulate the current owners of tigers, lions and other creatures.

The measure cleared the chamber by a 30-1 vote Wednesday, and goes now to the House for its consideration.

Facilities accredited by some national zoo groups would be exempt from the bill, along with sanctuaries and research institutions.

The legislation would allow current owners to keep their pets by obtaining a new state-issued permit by 2014 and meeting other strict conditions. Owners would have to pass a background check, post warning signs and obtain liability insurance or surety bonds.

The measure follows the October release of dozens of exotic animals by their suicidal owner from Zanesville, following which authorities had to kill 48 animals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATE: 4/24/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio Senate committee has accepted a slew of changes to a measure aimed at regulating exotic animals in the state.

The Senate's agriculture panel agreed to revisions Tuesday that include easing rules for snake ownership and exempting certain service monkeys who helped the disabled. The changes would exempt animals from a required microchip implantation if it would endanger their health.

The panel has scheduled a possible vote on the measure Tuesday, though it could come Wednesday. It would ban new ownership of exotic animals while allowing current owners to keep their pets by obtaining a new state-issued permit by 2014 and meeting other strict conditions.

The measure follows the October release of dozens of exotic animals by their suicidal owner from Zanesville, forcing
authorities to kill 48 animals.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATED: 3/27/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Dozens of exotic animal owners in Ohio were lining up Tuesday to oppose permit fees, certain caging requirements and other proposed regulations contained in a bill being considered by a state Senate panel.

The measure would ban new ownership of exotic animals, while allowing current owners to keep their pets by obtaining a permit by 2014. They'd be required to pass a background check and obtain insurance along with meeting other rules.

Evelyn Shaw of Pataskala told senators the bill would force her to euthanize her animals or keep them illegally. She said the fees are too expensive.

Efforts to strengthen the state's law took on new urgency in October when authorities were forced to kill 48 wild animals after their suicidal owner freed them from his eastern Ohio farm.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATED: 3/26/2012

PATASKALA, Ohio (AP) - A proposed bill that would ban new ownership of exotic animals in Ohio and require permits for existing owners has some fearing they'll have to euthanize pets or leave the state.

The Zanesville Times Recorder reports dozens of owners met this weekend with state Sen. Tim Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican. Media was prohibited from the Saturday meeting conducted by The Fair Animal Industry Regulations group.

Outside, Keith Campbell, co-owner of Hillview Exotics asked, "If they come after my foxes and birds, what will they come after next?" Carol Bohning, owner of Butternut Farm Wildcat Sanctuary, says she and many others would move if the state tried to take their animals.

The bill comes in response to the October release outside Zanesville of dozens of wild animals by their suicidal owner. Most of those pets were killed by police.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATE: 03/22/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Veterinarians from an Ohio zoo are performing medical tests on the five exotic animals held there since their suicidal owner released them in October.

The Columbus zoo began caring for three leopards, two primates and a bear after their owner released dozens of animals that had to be killed by authorities near Zanesville. One leopard was euthanized after being struck by a door lowering between two enclosures.

Under a quarantine order, the animals can't be released unless they're free of dangerous diseases.

Officials initially had concerns about whether the animals were strong enough to survive being anesthetized for testing. The state veterinarian determined Tuesday they were.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture says the animals are undergoing physical exams, X-rays and blood testing. Results are expected in one to two weeks.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATE: 3/08/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Officials at the Columbus Zoo are taking issue with an exemption in an Ohio bill that would allow a school to display a dangerous wild animal as a sports mascot.

The exemption is part of a proposal introduced on Thursday to regulate exotic animals in the state.

The zoo's chief operating officer says the facility supports the legislation overall, but not the exemption.

Tom Stalf also praised the bill's perimeter fencing requirements. He says the rule could have helped keep dozens of animals in Zanesville contained after their suicidal owner freed them from their cages in October.

The bill would ban new ownership of exotic animals in the state. Current owners of large animals would be barred from keeping the creatures unless they met strict standards beginning in 2014.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A suicidal owner in Ohio would not have been allowed to keep his exotic animals if legislation being introduced Thursday were in place months ago.

A state senator who is proposing the new regulations says Terry Thompson would not have passed the background check in his bill needed to acquire a permit for the animals.

Thompson had spent time in federal prison for possessing unregistered weapons. In October, he freed dozens of lions, tigers, bears and other animals at his Zanesville property before killing himself. Authorities were forced to shoot many of the animals.

State Sen. Troy Balderson's legislation would ban new ownership of exotic animals in the state, and current owners of large animals would be barred from keeping the creatures unless they met strict
standards beginning in 2014.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


UPDATED: 1/31/2012

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - The animal's former caretaker denies there were previous health problems with a spotted leopard that has died at an Ohio zoo where it was kept since an exotic animal escape.

The leopard was euthanized at the Columbus zoo after it was hurt in a weekend accident.

State officials say the leopard had a congenital defect that weakened its spine and might have affected the severity of its injury. They say the cat also had old broken bones that hadn't healed properly.

It was one of six animals not killed by officers when their owner released tigers and dozens of other creatures in October and then committed suicide.

Farm caretaker John Moore tells the Zanesville Times Recorder there was nothing wrong with the leopard. He says the zoo was neglectful.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_______________________________________________________________

UPDATED: 1/30/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Officials have euthanized a leopard that was among six creatures kept at an Ohio zoo since their suicidal owner released dozens of exotic animals that were subsequently killed by authorities.

The Columbus Zoo and the Ohio Department of Agriculture say a keeper was moving the male spotted leopard between enclosures Sunday when the animal unexpectedly reversed course as a door was being lowered. It was struck on the neck. A zoo veterinarian determined the unresponsive cat suffered a spinal cord injury. The state veterinarian decided to euthanize it.

It had been held under a state-issued quarantine order with two other leopards, two primates and a bear that survived the October hunt near Zanesville.

An attorney for the owner's widow says he's withholding comment until he learns more about what happened.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_______________________________________________________________

UPDATED: 01/05/2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A prosecutor says charges will be dropped against four Ohio men accused of trying to steal the carcass of a lion from an exotic-animal compound as long as they each complete 40 hours of community service.

The lion was among dozens of animals killed by police outside Zanesville last fall after their owner released them and committed suicide.

Muskingum County assistant prosecutor Maria Kalis said Thursday the case involved youthful hijinks and poor decision-making by men ranging in age from 19 to 21. She says authorities don't want the men's futures to be affected by bad decisions on one night.

The men were charged with theft. A message left with their attorney hasn't been returned.

The prosecutor doesn't know the status of a 17-year-old boy charged in the case.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

UPDATED: 01/05/2012

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio sheriff is reporting more evidence that a man killed himself after setting loose dozens of wild, exotic animals he owned.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz (loots) says testing by state investigators has confirmed that Terry Thompson had gunshot residue on his hands when he died Oct. 18.

Lutz says that doesn't prove Thompson committed suicide on his property near Zanesville in eastern Ohio. But the sheriff tells the Zanesville Times Recorder he's comfortable in his belief that Thompson took his own life by shooting himself through the mouth with a handgun.

Police were forced to kill 48 escaping animals, including bears, lions and endangered Bengal tigers.

Lutz says the investigation into Thompson's death is mostly done.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

UPDATED: 12/08/2011

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio sheriff who dealt with dozens of exotic animals set loose by a suicidal owner says two British film companies have contacted him about doing documentaries.

And, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz told an audience in eastern Ohio this week that he's been swamped with speaking requests.

The Times Leader reports Lutz told a civic group in St. Clairsville that he also has received hundreds of voice mails, emails, letters and phone calls questioning his actions.

His deputies were forced to kill 48 wild animals including bears, lions and endangered Bengal tigers released in October from a private compound in Zanesville by an owner who then killed himself.

Lutz indicated he has no regrets about how the situation was handled. He says public safety was the priority.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

UPDATED: 12/06/2011

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A national police group is honoring the Ohio sheriff who led the October big-game hunt after the owner of dozens of exotic animals released them and then killed himself.

The Zanesville Times Recorder reports Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz has been named Officer of the Month for January by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The group maintains a national police memorial in Washington, D.C., where Lutz will receive his award in May.

A member of the awards panel says Lutz addressed within a very short time a unique situation that posed a risk to himself and his officers. Deputies were forced to kill 48 wild animals including bears, lions and endangered Bengal tigers.

Lutz says he couldn't be more pleased by the award.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

UPDATED: 11/29/2011

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - Four Ohio men will face trial early next year on charges they tried to steal the carcass of a lion that was among exotic animals set free by a suicidal owner.

The lion was among 48 wild animals killed by sheriff's deputies in eastern Ohio's Muskingum County last month after their owner opened the cages and killed himself.

Multiple media outlets report a Jan. 6 trial has been scheduled. Each man is charged with a misdemeanor count of theft and faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted.

Legislation restricting or banning exotic animal ownership in Ohio is expected as soon as next week.

State Sen. Troy Balderson will meet with Senate President Tom Niehaus on Wednesday about setting a timeline for the bill.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An animal owners group in Ohio says it opposes a recommended state ban on keeping venomous snakes, monkeys, tigers and other dangerous animals.

A study group and several state agencies have proposed that Ohio prohibit people from owning those exotic animals beginning in 2014. Owners would have to meet new temporary safety standards before then and also register their animals with the state within 60 days of the law taking effect.

The Ohio Association of Animal Owners was a member of the study panel but says the proposal goes too far.

The working group has held expedited meetings since last month, when police were forced to kill 48 wild animals - including endangered Bengal tigers - after their owner freed them from his Zanesville farm and then committed suicide.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The widow of an Ohio man who released dozens of tigers, bears and other animals at his farm before killing himself is appealing the state's quarantine of the six surviving creatures.

Marian Thompson's lawyer requested a hearing in a letter to the Ohio Department of Agriculture this week. The lawyer did not cite a specific reason.

A department spokeswoman says lawyers for Thompson and the state will arrange a date to present their arguments to a hearing officer. The officer would make a determination to be reviewed by the head of the department.

The Columbus zoo has cared for three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear since Terry Thompson released animals at his farm near Zanesville last month. The state ordered the animals be kept under quarantine.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A study group is proposing that Ohio ban new ownership of venomous snakes, monkeys, tigers and other dangerous animals with only limited exceptions.

The group has been holding expedited meetings since last month, when police were forced to kill 48 wild animals - including endangered Bengal tigers - after their owner freed them from his Zanesville farm and then committed suicide.

A summary of the group's input and state agencies' recommendations for new regulations was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, after the group's final meeting.

The guidelines suggest the ban start in 2014. Owners would have to meet new temporary safety standards before then and also register their animals with the state.

Zoo, circuses and research facilities would be exempt.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

_________________________________________________________

Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's governor wants to halt exotic animal auctions and wonders why anyone owns wild animals such as bears or primates.

Gov. John Kasich spoke of the ideas last month to a working group studying ways to change the state's laws on exotic animals. The meeting minutes were released late last week.

The group sped up its work on recommendations after dozens of exotic animals were released last month by their private owner, who then killed himself, leaving deputies to put down many of the beasts.

Kasich told the group during their Oct. 31 meeting that no one should own wild animals such as bears or primates.

Kasich also called for a ban on auctions where exotic wild animals are sold, and suggested that fees be significant.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Update:

New reports detailing how authorities in Ohio responded when dozens of exotic animals escaped last month show that a lion and a bear charged at deputies before they were shot and killed.

The reports released Friday describe a chaotic scene around the private compound in eastern Ohio.

Two deputies shot a pair of lions running near a fence along an interstate highway. A deputy says one lion got up and charged at him before he killed it.

Sheriff's deputies were forced to kill 48 wild animals, including bears, lions and endangered Bengal tigers, after their owner freed them late in the afternoon on Oct. 18 and then committed suicide.

Deputies say they couldn't get near the man at first because a tiger was standing over his body.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

______________________________________________________

Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's state veterinarian says testing of a half-dozen exotic animals that survived release after their owner killed himself won't begin for several weeks.

Dr. Tony Forshey said Monday the animals must be anesthetized to have blood drawn. He's worried they're too weak to survive the procedure.

The Columbus zoo is caring for three leopards, two monkeys and a young grizzly bear taken from a Zanesville home two weeks ago after owner Terry Thompson freed dozens of animals, then shot himself.

Police were forced to kill 48 animals, including lions, bears and 18 endangered Bengal tigers.

An email seeking comment was sent Monday to an attorney for the owner's widow, Marian Thompson, who had sought to reclaim the animals. Both she and her attorney have repeatedly declined comment.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

WTAP Television - Exotic Animals Escape From Zanesville Home

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A neighbor says he'd rather not have six surviving exotic animals returned to the abutting Ohio farm where an owner killed himself last week after releasing dozens of animals.

Widow Marian Thompson had sought Thursday to return to the farm three leopards, two primates and a grizzly bear that have been cared for by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for about a week. But the state Department of Agriculture intervened as she was about to retrieve them, ordering the animals kept under quarantine at the zoo.

The zoo says it took the surviving animals from the farm near Zanesville with Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to them.

Authorities hunted down and killed most of the animals freed by Terry Thompson out of concern for public safety.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich says the state Department of Agriculture has ordered six exotic animals to be quarantined.

That's instead of transferring them from a zoo to a woman whose suicidal husband freed them.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium says it was notified that Marian Thompson would pick up the animals Thursday afternoon. She planned to reclaim three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear that have been cared for by the zoo since last week.

The zoo says it took the surviving animals from the farm in Zanesville with Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to them.

Terry Thompson mysteriously freed the animals and dozens of others last week before killing himself. Authorities had to hunt down and kill many of them.

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio zoo says despite its opposition, a woman plans to reclaim three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear that have been cared for by the zoo since her husband freed dozens of exotic animals at their farm and killed himself.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium says it was notified that Marian Thompson will pick up the animals Thursday afternoon.

The zoo says it took the six surviving animals last week from a farm in Zanesville with Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to them. A spokeswoman says the zoo has contacted state and federal agencies in search of a way to keep the animals in its care and isn't giving up yet.

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Update:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The Columbus Zoo is trying to stop an Ohio woman from reclaiming three leopards, two primates and a bear that have been cared for by the zoo since her husband freed dozens of exotic animals at their farm and killed himself.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium says it took the six surviving animals with Marian Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to the animals. It says her lawyers notified the zoo that she will reclaim the beasts, possibly as early as Thursday.

A spokeswoman says the zoo has contacted state and federal agencies in search of a way to keep the animals.

Police shot and killed four dozen more animals that escaped from the eastern Ohio farm near Zanesville last week, including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATE:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Jack Hanna has urged a state panel to draw up strict rules for owning exotic animals in Ohio, where a man set loose more than 50 animals last week and then killed himself.

TV personality Hanna, the former Columbus Zoo director, says he told a working committee during its closed-door meeting on Monday that Ohio must make sure that what just happened never happens again. Police killed dozens of the released animals while schools closed and motorists were warned to stay in their vehicles.

Hanna told The Columbus Dispatch that his message was: "No more lions and tigers and bears as pets."

Gov. John Kasich on Friday ordered a temporary crackdown on private ownership of exotic wild animals. The study committee has until Nov. 30 to draft permanent legislation.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Update 10/21/2011 @ 3:40 P.M

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich says he'll push for a moratorium on exotic animal auctions and a crackdown on unlicensed auctions.

The governor announced an executive order Friday, a few days after an owner of exotic pets in Ohio set dozens free this week and committed suicide.

Kasich had let an order that banned buying and selling exotic animals expire this spring, arguing it lacked legal authority.

Kasich's order says he'll propose laws to regulate wild animals by Nov. 30. And he says the state will work toward better application of existing laws until more specific laws are enacted.

Activists have complained that Ohio has some of the nation's laxest regulations on exotic pets.

Police were forced to shoot most of the animals freed this week to ensure public safety.

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Update:

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - The owner of an animal preserve who killed himself after freeing dozens of lions, tigers and other exotic animals was deeply in debt.

Court records show that Terry Thompson and his wife owed at least $68,000 in unpaid taxes to the IRS and the county, and he had two federal tax liens filed against him last year. He had just gotten out of federal prison last month for possessing unregistered weapons.

On Tuesday, Thompson, 62, opened the cages at his animal preserve and then killed himself. Deputies killed 48 animals - including 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions and eight bears - in a hunt across the Ohio countryside that lasted nearly 24 hours.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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Updated: 10/20/2011 7:15 P.M.

Remember the incident from last summer, when local firefighters and West Virginia Department of Natural Resources workers had to round up an alligator which had been found on Quincy Hill?

That helped to prevent a situation which could have been dangerous to residents.

"It's big enough to injure or kill a small child," Maryann Hollis, Director of the Humane Society of Parkersburg, said at the time. "It could easily kill a cat; it could kill a big dog, it is not a small gator. It creates a very dangerous situation for anyone who would come in contact with it."

That sounds a lot like what we have been hearing in the last two days from Eastern Ohio. Only in the latter case, with the release of more than three dozen animals into open land, it could have been a lot more dangerous.

Ohio has been considering a law, which is still in the process of being drafted, aimed at regulating more strictly the ownership and possession of exotic animals.

"That recognizes that some people can do this safely and effectively, but others might be more of a rogue nature," says Republican State Representative Andy Thompson, 93rd District. "They might have other complications that might make them ineligible, any abuse issues would have to be addressed."

Nearly 25 years ago, Marietta City Council passed a law restricting the ownership of exotic pets within the city limits. Police tell us they have had no enforcement issues relating to that law.

Vienna Mayor David Nohe says Vienna considered such a law a few years ago, but it failed to get the final passage by city council. Nohe says he would be open to sponsoring a comprehensive law for the entire Mountain State.

A spokesman for the Columbus Zoo, which also handles publicity for the Wilds, the wildlife attraction close to the site of this week's tragedy in Muskingum County, says any such laws are a long time in coming.

"We definitely need to do better in our state, to regulate who owns these animals," says Chief Operating Officer Tom Stalf. "And we want to make sure we have a facility or place to hold any animals that are in the same situation."

Something which might be easier, now that the nation and the world have seen what happened this week in a rural Eastern Ohio town.

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UPDATE:

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio sheriff says a coroner has confirmed that the owner of an exotic animal farm died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and then was bitten.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said at a news conference Thursday that the autopsy showed farm owner Terry Thompson had a bite wound on the head that appeared to have come from a large cat, such as a Bengal tiger.

Lutz says it appears the bite occurred quickly after Thompson shot himself.

Authorities say Thompson released his more than 50 animals before killing himself on Tuesday. Dozens of escaped tigers, lions and other beasts were shot by officers.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATE:

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A zoo says the surviving animals from an Ohio farm where exotic animals were set free by their owner seem to be OK.

Some four dozen animals were killed by police after authorities say the owner opened cages at the farm near Zanesville on Tuesday and then killed himself.

The Columbus Zoo says it's now caring for a young grizzly bear, two monkeys and three leopards. The zoo said in a statement Thursday that the rescued animals seem to be doing very well.

The animals that were killed include 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions.

One monkey from the farm is still unaccounted for. The county sheriff has said in interviews that it's very possible the monkey was eaten by one of the big cats.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATE:

Columbus Zoo officials say all animals from the exotic animal farm in Zanesville are accounted for -- none remain on the loose.

Tom Stalf, Chief Operating Officer and Senior VP of the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds tells WTAP it is believed that the monkey previously reported as on the loose was eaten by one of the other predators from the farm.

Stalf says 6 animals have been taken to the Columbus Zoo for evaluation. They include leopard, monkeys and a young bear.
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UPDATE:

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio sheriff says 48 of about 56 exotic animals were killed by deputies after their owner freed them and committed suicide.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz says that included 18 Bengal tigers. Other animals killed near the preserve in eastern Ohio included 17 lions, eight bears and a wolf.

Lutz says the only remaining animals are a wolf and a monkey.

Authorities say the monkey should be shot if caught because it could be carrying a disease.

Several schools closed to keep children out of harm's way. The sheriff says that he believes the danger to residents has passed and that schools can reopen.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - Sheriff's officials in Muskingum County now say just two animals that escaped from a wild-animal park yesterday are still on the loose -- a wolf and a monkey.

Officers hunted the rest of the 50 or so animals all night and today, and authorities say all but those two have either been shot and killed or captured alive. They included lions, bears, tigers and other exotic beasts.

The sheriff says the owner of the animal farm, Terry Thompson, had left the cages and gates open, and then committed suicide.

Sheriff Matt Lutz isn't speculating on why he did it. But he'd had repeated run-ins with the law over the years.

A neighbor thinks Thompson did it to get back at neighbors and police.

Schools in the mostly rural area were closed today, and parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED: 10/19/2011 03:30PM

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio sheriff says 48 of about 56 exotic animals were killed by deputies after their owner freed them and committed suicide.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz says that included 18 Bengal tigers. Other animals killed near the preserve in eastern Ohio included 17 lions, eight bears and a wolf.

The sheriff's department's 911 center told WTAP News Wednesday night that only one animal, a monkey, is still being sought. Authorities say the monkey should be shot if caught because it could be carrying a disease.

Several schools closed to keep children out of harm's way. The sheriff says that he believes the danger to residents has passed and that schools can reopen.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED: 10/19/2011 03:08PM

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - Sheriff's officials in Muskingum County now say just two animals that escaped from a wild-animal park yesterday are still on the loose -- a wolf and a monkey.

Officers hunted the rest of the 50 or so animals all night and today, and authorities say all but those two have either been shot and killed or captured alive. They included lions, bears, tigers and other exotic beasts.

The sheriff says the owner of the animal farm, Terry Thompson, had left the cages and gates open, and then committed suicide. Sheriff Matt Lutz isn't speculating on why he did it. But he'd had repeated run-ins with the law over the years.

A neighbor thinks Thompson did it to get back at neighbors and police.

Schools in the mostly rural area were closed today, and parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATED

Ohio sheriff: only 3 wild animals still loose

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio sheriff says a mountain lion, grizzly bear and monkey are the only animals still running loose after escaping from an exotic-animal preserve.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz also says his department has received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals at the property in eastern Ohio.

The farm owner apparently opened cages that housed dozens of dangerous animals and then committed suicide.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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UPDATE 10/19/2011 10:54 am

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz says a mountain lion, grizzly bear and monkey are the only animals still running loose.

UPDATE: 10/19/2011 10:35

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - A sheriff says exotic animals on the loose in eastern Ohio were set free by their owner, who apparently killed himself on his farm.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said at a news conference Wednesday that investigators feel Terry Thompson died from a self-inflicted wound.

Lutz says authorities are awaiting autopsy results on the cause of death.

The sheriff says it appears Thompson left the animals' gates open and even cut open their pens so they would get out.

The animals included lions and bears.

Deputies found Thompson's body on Tuesday when they went to the farm on Tuesday on reports of wild animals running free.

Officials spent the night hunting down and shooting to death most of the nearly 50 animals.

Schools closed and motorists were warned to stay in their vehicles as officers with assault rifles hunted Wednesday for bears, big cats and other beasts that escaped from a wild-animal preserve after the owner was found dead and cages housing dozens of dangerous animals were left open.

Officers were under orders to shoot to kill because officials said it wasn't safe to tranquilize the animals in the dark.

Authorities were investigating whether Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson killed himself after freeing the animals, and officials spent the night hunting down and shooting to death nearly 30 of the 48 animals.

As officials warned that more animals still were on the loose, three school districts in the region and some private and special schools canceled classes as the remaining bears, big cats and other beasts from the Muskingum County Animal Farm were hunted down.

Flashing signs along area highways told motorists, "Caution exotic animals" and "Stay in vehicle."

The animals' cages had been opened and the farm's fences had been left unsecured, police said. It was "very possible" that Thompson left the cages open, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz
said.

Lutz told NBC's "Today" show that authorities were awaiting autopsy results on the farm owner. Lutz had said earlier that the death was not suspicious.

"Once daybreak hits here, we're going back in to get an accountability of how many animals have been put down, how many animals are still penned up," the sheriff told NBC.

The preserve in Zanesville, about 55 miles east of Columbus, had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears.

Police said bears and wolves were among the escaped animals that were killed and there were multiple sightings of exotic animals along a nearby highway.

Lutz called the animals "mature, very big, aggressive" but said a caretaker told authorities the animals had been fed on Monday.

Tuesday night, more than 50 law enforcement officials - including sheriff's deputies, highway patrol officers, police officers and officers from the state Division of Wildlife - patrolled the 40-acre farm and the surrounding areas in cars and trucks, often in rainy downpours.

Lutz said they were concerned about big cats and bears hiding in the dark and in trees.

Neighbor Danielle White, whose father's property abuts the animal preserve, said she didn't see loose animals this time but did in 2006, when a lion escaped.

"It's always been a fear of mine knowing (the preserve's owner) had all those animals," she said.

"I have kids." Lutz said his office started getting phone calls at about 5:30p.m. Tuesday that wild animals were loose just west of Zanesville on a road that runs under Interstate 70.

He said four deputies with assault rifles in a pickup truck went to the animal farm, where they found the owner Thompson dead and all the animal cage doors open.

He wouldn't say how Thompson died but said several aggressive animals were near his body when deputies arrived and had to be shot.

Thompson, who lived on the property, had orangutans and chimps in his home, but those were still in their cages, Lutz said.

The deputies, who saw many other animals standing outside their cages and others that had escaped past the fencing surrounding the property, began shooting them on sight.

Staffers from the Columbus Zoo went to the scene, hoping to tranquilize and capture the animals after daybreak Wednesday.

The zoo's director emeritus, TV host Jack Hanna, said that was something that could not be done in the dark.

"You cannot tranquilize an animal like this, a bear or a leopard or a tiger (at nighttime)," Hanna told ABC's "Good Morning America on Wednesday. "If you do that, the animal gets very excited, it goes and hides, and then we have his (Lutz's) officer in danger of losing their life, and other people."

Lutz said his main concern was protecting the public in the rural area, where homes sit on large lots of sometimes 10 acres.

White, the preserve's neighbor, said Thompson had been in legal trouble, and police said he had gotten out of jail recently.

"He was in hot water because of the animals, because of permits, and (the animals) escaping all the time," White said. A few weeks ago, she said, she had to avoid some camels which were grazing on the side of a freeway.

At a nearby Moose Lodge, Bill Weiser remembered Thompson as an interesting character who flew planes, raced boats and owned a custom motorcycle shop that also sold guns.

"He was pretty unique," Weiser said. "He had a different slant on things. I never knew him to hurt anybody, and he took good care of the animals."

Weiser said he regretted that the escaped animals had to be killed. "It's breaking my heart, them shooting those animals," he said.

Bailey Hartman, 20, a night manager at McDonald's, also said it saddened her that the animals were being shot. But, she said, "I was kind of scared coming in to work."

Hartman said Thompson's wife, who no longer lives with him, was her teacher in middle school and used to bring small animals such as a monkeys, snakes and owls to school. "It was a once-a-year type of thing, and everyone would always get excited," she recalled.

Thompson had permits to keep four black bears, said Laura Jones, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The department licenses only native species, Jones said Wednesday.

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them.

In the summer of 2010, an animal caretaker was killed by a bear at a property in Cleveland. The caretaker had opened the bear's cage at exotic-animal keeper Sam Mazzola's property for a routine feeding.

Though animal-welfare activists had wanted Mazzola charged with reckless homicide, the caretaker's death was ruled a workplace accident. The bear was later destroyed.

This summer, Mazzola was found dead on a water bed, wearing a mask and with his arms and legs restrained, at his home in Columbia Township, about 15 miles southwest of Cleveland.

It was unclear how many animals remained on the property when he died, but he had said in a bankruptcy filing in May 2010 that he owned four tigers, a lion, eight bears and 12 wolves.

The U.S.Department of Agriculture had revoked his license to exhibit animals after animal-welfare activists campaigned for him to stop letting people wrestle with another one of his bears.

Mazzola had permits for nine bears for 2010, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said. The state requires permits for bears but doesn't regulate the ownership of nonnative animals, such as lions and tigers.

The Humane Society of the United States on Wednesday urged Ohio to immediately issue emergency restrictions on the sale and possession of dangerous wild animals. "

"How many incidents must we catalogue before the state takes action to crack down on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals," Humane Society Wayne Pacelle said in a statement.
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ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) - Police armed with rifles are patrolling rural Zanesville, where dozens of animals escaped from a wild-animal preserve and where their owner was found dead.

Authorities say 48 exotic animals were kept at the Muskingum County Animal Farm. Close to 30 of the animals were shot and killed over night Tuesday.

Police won't say what animals escaped but say the farm had
lions, wolves, tigers, giraffes, camels and bears. They say there are multiple sightings of exotic animals along Interstate 70.


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