COMMENTARY | Terry Thompson was the owner of an exotic animal farm and had recently been in trouble for gun charges. On Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, neighbors of Johnson called the Muskingum County Sheriff’s office to report numerous wild animals running loose. When the police arrived, the owner was dead and all of the wild animals had been released. Included in the mix of animals were tigers, grizzly bears, cheetahs, mountain lions, wolves, black bears, lions and monkeys. Thompson had been charged several times for animal cruelty in 2008 and 2009.
As of last night no one was sure just how many wild animals were released or how the owner died. The Columbus Dispatch now reports that the owner opened all of the cages and then committed suicide. Estimates now are that 51 wild animals were released. As of Wednesday, Oct. 19, estimates are that all but three have been killed, although Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz did clarify this by saying there is no way to know for sure how many were released or how many remain.
As a local who owns a pony farm near this location, I was not happy with the lack of information initially being broadcast on our local news. We were on high alert through out the night to protect our animals since the last seen wild animal was approximately 10 miles from our farm. Many other locals were also dismayed by the lack of transparency on the part of Sheriff Matt Lutz.
Many Ohio residents are now pointing fingers at Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the lax Ohio laws regarding owning exotic animals. In past years when attempts were made to strengthen these laws, Gov. Kasich voted them down.
Some animal activists are claiming the animals were shot needlessly. Lutz and animal handler Jack Hanna both say that the only choice was to shoot to kill to keep residents safe. Due to the animals being found loose at nighttime, the opportunity to shoot the animals with a tranquilizer gun were diminished. This morning one lion was shot with a tranquilizer but then proceeded to run. The lion was immediately shot since the tranquilizer did not work.
I am an animal lover, but I do agree with their decision to shoot the animals. To get close enough to shoot these animals with a tranquilizer gun is just too dangerous. A wounded wild animal running loose is much more of a threat to the community than a healthy wild animal.
Televised reports also begged locals not to go hunting for the animals. But as an insider living within 10 miles of the last seen tiger, I can tell you that many hunters I know called off work today to hunt the exotic animals.