Court won’t return exotic animals to man’s home

Associated Press


A man whose tigers and other exotic animals were seized in a raid by authorities in Ohio lost what is likely his final court challenge seeking return of the animals to his roadside sanctuary.

The Ohio Supreme Court turned down a request to overturn a lower court’s decision that sided with the state in its three-year legal battle with Kenny Hetrick over the animals.

The state’s agriculture department said the decision issued Wednesday will allow it to begin handing over permanent ownership of the animals to the sanctuaries where they now are housed.

“They can peacefully live out their lives and the state will no longer be responsible for the cost of their care,” Mark Bruce, a department spokesman said.

Hetrick’s daughter said her family was shocked and devastated.

The state hauled away the animals from Hetrick’s sanctuary near Toledo in 2015 and later shipped them outside of Ohio, spending more than $30,000 on temporary care for the tigers, a bear, a leopard and a cougar.

One of the animals, a male lion named Leo, was euthanized by the state, which said he was in failing health and stopped eating.

The state cracked down on exotic-animal owners and began requiring beefed up enclosures and more oversight after an eastern Ohio man released dozens of his exotic animals before killing himself in 2011.

Ohio officials took custody of Hetrick’s animals after they said he ignored warnings about needing a permit. Inspectors also reported that his cages were not secure enough to prevent an escape.

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