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Big game hunt in Ohio: Exotic animals on the loose near Zanesville

Published: Wed, October 19, 2011 @ 8:09 a.m.

ZANESVILLE (AP) — Dozens of animals escaped Tuesday night from a wild-animal preserve that houses bears, big cats and other beasts, and the owner later was found dead there, said police, who shot several of the animals and urged nearby residents to stay indoors.

The fences had been left unsecured at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, in east-central Ohio, and the animals' cages were open, police said. They wouldn't say what animals escaped but said the preserve had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears. They said bears and wolves were among 25 escaped animals that had been shot and killed and there were multiple sightings of exotic animals along nearby Route 70.

"These are wild animals that you would see on TV in Africa," Sheriff Matt Lutz warned at a press conference.

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. I've heard a male lion roar all night."

Lutz called the escaped animals "mature, very big, aggressive" but said a caretaker told authorities the preserve's 48 animals had been fed on Monday. He said police were patrolling the 40-acre farm and the surrounding areas in cars, not on foot, and were concerned about big cats and bears hiding in the dark and in trees.

"This is a bad situation," Lutz said. "It's been a situation for a long time."

Lutz said his office started getting phone calls at about 5:30 p.m. 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, Terry 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. They said there had been no reports of injuries among the public.

Staffers from the Columbus Zoo went to the scene, hoping to tranquilize and capture the animals. The sheriff said caretakers might put food in the animals' open cages to try to lure them back.


1legend33(169 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

We should take some of our killers out of jail and see how they do against the animals

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2foxyglo(372 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago


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3Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Our killers in prison are every bit as vicious as these animals . Kill one of them when they attack you and you will be charged .

These poor misunderstood animals who have been released are being slaughtered with no outcry . PETA members should be there protecting them .

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4whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

probably an animal rights activist who killed the owner.... just saying...

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5Dagwood(316 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

PETA will only show up if a celebrity is wearing one as a fur.

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6WhatRUAfraidOf(85 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I feel bad for the animals in this case. I know that law enforcement feels compelled to kill the animals because they have no idea how the animals will react and need to keep the public safe. Still, it's not the fault of the creatures that they do what comes naturally. I know we need zoos to keep some very threatened species from becoming extinct and they do a lot of good. However, things like this make me wonder why in heaven's name a person would choose to house these types of animals in this type of environment. What a pity.

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7jetercp(67 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

yeah pretty typical of law enforcement in ohio, just shoot the animals instead of going through the necessary means of capturing and saving these animals. cant wait til the WWF gets ahold of this one...
wow is the law enforcement in ohio lackluster as always...

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8DwightK(1402 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

What rae the "necessary means"? How many people would be in danger while the police look for enough tranqulizer guns, darts and drugs to put the animals down? And do we really expect police to hunt them in the dark?

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9jetercp(67 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

umm... i dunno how bout the animal control department? u know those guys who are paid handsomely as government employees to catch and release into the wild lost or displaced animals? i mean most communities have them. maybe you have never heard of them but they do exist. nah nevermind, lets just shoot them anyways, its their fault they were released from their cages afterall right? come on man...

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10AtownAugie(804 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

PETA? Yes, I'm a member: People Eating Tasty Animals.

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11AnotherAverageCitizen(1176 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

And all along I thought it was Please Eat The Animals.

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12woolyd(579 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Well hopefully the animals will take out a couple humans. Im sure there is a better way to capture them then a bunch of police shooting them. My question is if they were just standing outside their cages and next to the fence why shoot them???? Obviously they were probably waiting to be fed which could have been done while the call for those to tranquilize were being made.

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13Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Why kill them ? We need more wild animals on the loose in Ohio . . . ..

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14VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

These were not just pets...they were wild animals...lions, tigers, grizzly bears, wolves and a monkey carrying a dangerous disease. Most were maneaters and all were loose seeking something to eat. With a housing development and school nearby, it was urgent to round them up as soon as possible. With darkness upon them, it was impossible to capture them in time to prevent possible loss of human life. They HAD to act fast. Several were captured, but all others were dispatched under orders of shoot to kill. The diseased monkey is still on the loose.

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15AnotherAverageCitizen(1176 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

jrolley, Are you having a family reunion??

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16jetercp(67 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

ohio once again dropped the ball hard. ohio has dropped the ball with the casino issue, SB5, electing Kasich, and cutting education... yet they wonder why people are virally leaving the state. what happened to this state?

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17CassAnn(252 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Not only were they wild animals, but ones that had no fear of humans because they were caged and fed by humans. The risk of someone being seriously injured or killed was very high. Tranquilizing a large animal in daylight is difficult enough and requires specialists, let alone in the middle of the night in the dark. They tried hitting one of the big cats with a tranq in daylight and it went nuts and had to be shot anyway. I feel bad the animals had to be put down, but it isn't the sheriff's fault, it is the moron owners fault for letting them out. Other news sites have said he let the animals loose and then shot himself.

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18Woody(473 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

Jeter: "umm... i dunno how bout the animal control department"

Yeah cause the animal control departments in Ohio frequently deal with lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!!

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19jetercp(67 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

yes, agreed, but its better than remedial sheriffs like "Matt Getz" declaring marshall law in rural ohio because he is too lazy to track down these animals. i mean every zoo has a way of detaining and protecting these animals (usually by some pimply faced teenager with a summer job), why cant our law enforcement? i mean really, there needs to be criminal charges brought up on this. there truly does... especially how that clown sheriff went on interviews bragging that he gave the green light to execute the animals... what happened to the law enforcement in this state?

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20legend33(169 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I blame the repeal efforts of SB5 for the poor law enforcement in Ohio.

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21flyinghigh77(2 comments)posted 3 years, 11 months ago

I just want to know, how equipped is Berlin Center if something like what happened in Zanesvile would happen at Noah's Lost Ark?

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