Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Exotic animal debacle in Zanesville
October 19, 2011 4:29 PM   Subscribe

Wild Animal Escape From Ohio Farm Like 'Noah's Ark Wrecking' "Jack Hanna says the scene of wild and dangerous animals running from an eastern Ohio farm after their owner freed them and killed himself was 'like Noah’s Ark wrecking.'

"Zoo staff members came to the property in Zanesville, about 55 miles (89 kilometers) east of Columbus, after Terry Thompson, 61, killed himself yesterday, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said. Investigators believe Thompson opened the cages of about 56 beasts before his suicide, Lutz said. Authorities said they answered many calls at the 73-acre spread over the years, including reports of animal cruelty.

"Even as law officers tracked the feral escapees, Ohio officials are considering regulations on exotic and wild pets. Former Governor Ted Strickland issued an executive order banning their keeping before leaving office in January, though it expired under Governor John Kasich."

"Law officers shot 48 animals and buried them on the property, including 18 tigers, nine lions, eight lionesses, three mountain lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears and a baboon, Lutz said during a news conference at a makeshift operations center near the Thompson property. A gray wolf and monkey were still loose, and the monkey may be carrying a virus, Lutz said. Six other animals were taken to the Columbus Zoo."

Apparently Ted Nugent is also weighing in.
posted by I_Love_Bananas (113 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
This makes me really angry - like there are too many tigers in the world. Fucking gun totin' ignorance.
posted by the noob at 4:32 PM on October 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


Holy shit. I...agree with Ted Nugent about something?

*sits down, feels lightheaded*
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:33 PM on October 19, 2011 [13 favorites]


Sadly, there are more privately owned tigers than there are tigers in the wild.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Card Cheat, I thought the same thing. I was expecting Uncle Ted to say something racist, sexist, cruel, and/or non-sequitur and he comes out with a reasonable request to regulate exotic animals.
posted by dhens at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, there are a lot of backyard zoos in America, some with dozens of big cats like this one.
posted by Brian B. at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2011


In their defense- yesterday it was pouring rain and the the discovery came with barely 30 minutes of daylight left. Another story reported that as officers approached the home, they could see the owner's body with animals roaming around it. ugh.

Witnesses on Interstate 70 reported seeing exotic animals on the highway, according to police.

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 73-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.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:36 PM on October 19, 2011


*sits down, feels lightheaded*

Those are textbook symptoms of Cat Scratch Fever.
posted by Hoopo at 4:37 PM on October 19, 2011 [32 favorites]


Yes. I was expecting that Nugent would've offered to come shoot them or suggest that there be an organized hunt or something, but I have to say I agree with him here.

I wonder if they took tissue samples from the animals - particularly tigers and lions. Eventually, we'll be able to resequence them, and having more source DNA can only help. (Unfortunately, I don't think the tigers will make it unless we start creating new ones. I wonder if there are 'endangered species dna vaults' like 'seed vaults'.)
posted by rmd1023 at 4:37 PM on October 19, 2011


They even cancelled Zanesville local schools... it was completely surreal.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2011


I remember a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (c. 1992) when I was a kid. We stopped at a gas station that sold ice cream and also had a bear in a cage for the amusement of visitors. Even as a 10-year-old, I felt bad for the bear. As an adult, I now realize it also a really bad idea for the local human population (sparse as it is up there).
posted by dhens at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2011


Sad story. But I hope that monkey and the wolf are on an adventure to freedom together.
posted by Liquidwolf at 4:39 PM on October 19, 2011 [36 favorites]


the monkey may be carrying a virus

Is it... Cat Scratch Fever?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:40 PM on October 19, 2011


Damn you, Hoopo!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:40 PM on October 19, 2011


No.. it's Herpes B. And I just heard Jack Hanna report that they think one of the other animals may have killed it. But it's officially still out there.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:41 PM on October 19, 2011


18 Bengal tigers killed.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:43 PM on October 19, 2011


I just heard the guy did it after finding out his wife was cheating on him. WTF?
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:45 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Assuming these were not animals that could only survive in captivity (injured, captive-raised, etc)--and even maybe then--this makes me think a more just outcome would have been if a tiger or two had escaped before this nutjob killed himself and did the job for him.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:50 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


What kind of person would let all these wild animals loose? Would there be a valid reason to do this, or was he just some kind of selfish prick, risking the lives of both the animals and the people, just because his life wasn't worth living?
posted by bitteroldman at 4:50 PM on October 19, 2011


That's .7% of the world's population of Bengal tigers.
posted by MrMoonPie at 4:51 PM on October 19, 2011 [17 favorites]


Those poor animals. They never should have been there.
posted by Mavri at 4:51 PM on October 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Liquidwolf: Sad story. But I hope that monkey and the wolf are on an adventure to freedom together.

Me too. I am already visualizing their fantastic and unusual friendship.

"Come forth from the trees so I can eat you," said Wolf. "I hunger and cannot escape me."

"Aha," said the Monkey. "But how will you escape the humans with your belly full with me? They carry guns, and are numerous, and are cunning!"

Wolf sat, and cocked his head to one side. "What do you propose, Monkey?"

Dropping below the treeline, hanging effortlessly from a branch with one arm, Monkey spoke: "I am cunning, and you are cunning. But together, we more cunning than all of them them. Let us escape, together, and we can reconsider your dinner plans later."

I also find it suspect that the author if this post is I_Love_Bananas, and that you are Liquidwolf.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:53 PM on October 19, 2011 [58 favorites]


These animals were abused and mistreated all along. It's been a slow tragedy, really.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:54 PM on October 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


He either wanted the animals killed, or he wanted them to kill someone. In any case, the abuse and death of so many animals is a tragedy.
posted by happyroach at 4:56 PM on October 19, 2011



I also find it suspect that the author if this post is I_Love_Bananas, and that you are Liquidwolf.


Hmmmm.... yes so do I, now that I notice it.

And I like that philosophical survival story you've got for them. You're hired , write the script. Pixar is interested,
posted by Liquidwolf at 5:01 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't know that we can safely posit what the guy had in mind when he opened the cages. He may have been so distraught that no logical thoughts were going through his fevered brain, or he might have had some twisted sympathy on the caged animals and decided finally to "free" them before he killed himself or something else entirely. When someone is suicidal, they're not really disposed to purely cogent, rational thought.

Sad all around, for him and the animals.
posted by darkstar at 5:08 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if they took tissue samples from the animals - particularly tigers and lions. Eventually, we'll be able to resequence them, and having more source DNA can only help. (Unfortunately, I don't think the tigers will make it unless we start creating new ones. I wonder if there are 'endangered species dna vaults' like 'seed vaults'.)

Not to derail, but - just in case it comes up :) - how do you store tissue samples like that? Seems like freezing makes cells burst. What kind of tissue do you grab?
posted by codswallop at 5:10 PM on October 19, 2011


Assuming these were not animals that could only survive in captivity

My first thought about the black bears was that in theory they should be fine in Ohio, which might even be a natural black bear habitat. But odds are they'd be considered "problem animals" because they have grown accustomed to being around people, and likely the decision would be that they would need to be destroyed.
posted by Hoopo at 5:14 PM on October 19, 2011


"I'm the only dangerous carnivore on the property as we speak," Nugent said. "And I'm totally controlled by Mrs. Nugent."

Quoted for some kind of truth
posted by Blasdelb at 5:20 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


This makes me really angry - like there are too many tigers in the world. Fucking gun totin' ignorance.

Are you mad at the order to shoot the escaped big cats or at the guy who kept them on his property? It ain't exactly clear.
posted by Justinian at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


This guy (Thompson) sounds horrible. Since he was abusive towards his animals, letting them go doesn't feel like a thoughtful gesture (giving them freedom). As he was a gun fetishist, he surely knew what the local police's response would be.

Setting free his animals seems more like wilful destruction, on the order of an ancient monarch's ordering his concubines, slaves, and horses to be killed and buried with him in his tomb.

The Roman emperor Nero said "When I am dead, let fire destroy the earth!"

The modern equivalent might be setting one's mansion on fire in a fire-prone district.
posted by bad grammar at 5:22 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Worse than just being used to people, Hoopo, they were dependant on people, and they were mistreated. They will never be safe in the wild.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2011


But I hope that monkey and the wolf are on an adventure to freedom together.

Fess up, who's thinking about a Disney movie?
posted by desjardins at 5:23 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a really tragic situation.

I can't help but wonder if Mr. Hanna had something in common with this gentleman in this Kids in the Hall sketch.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:25 PM on October 19, 2011


Not to derail, but - just in case it comes up :) - how do you store tissue samples like that? Seems like freezing makes cells burst. What kind of tissue do you grab?

Liver, for example, is a good source of DNA, as are ear punches or blood samples. Yes, cells burst when frozen, but DNA is a hardy, tightly-packed molecule. As long as you don't subject it to numerous freeze-thaw cycles, it'll remain intact enough to amplify it later with PCR. This info is coming from someone who recently had to move a ton of rapidly warming frozen monkeys, monkey bits, and monkey poo when one of our lab's freezers when down over the weekend, all of which we store for future DNA extraction and analysis.
posted by bergeycm at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh for the love of christ.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Zookeeper, starring Kevin James, with its original, much darker ending.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Jesus--if this guy was a gun fetishist and an animal abuser, let's hope he wasn't an amateur virologist and Twelve Monkeys fan, too... This whole scene just sounds so apocalyptic.

Caught a little of this story on the radio, but didn't get the whole scoop until just now. Unbelievable and sad.
posted by saulgoodman at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2011


And I like that philosophical survival story you've got for them. You're hired , write the script. Pixar is interested

Hmmm....

And I just heard Jack Hanna report that they think one of the other animals may have killed it.

I'd like to continue, but Wolf just tricked the monkey into his jaws and scampered quickly into the brush. The police and their flashlights could not keep up, and the sounds of their guns obscured Wolf's passage through the trees, toward the river.

But, perhaps it was it part of the monkey's plan.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:35 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


With all due agreement re: the anger I felt at reading about 18 Bengal tigers being shot dead in one night, I'm still a bit bemused by this story being in BusinessWeek (wtf?)
posted by infini at 5:35 PM on October 19, 2011


That shit is bananas.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Goddamnit relality stop creating situations I would dismissive as needlessly surreal and sad and on the nose if I encountered them in fiction.
posted by The Whelk at 5:43 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow, what a weird situation. Terrible that this happened. Any loss of bears or big cats is important, and for it to happen this way is really heartbreaking.

One question though: lots of talk in here about this guy being a "gun fetishist." I read all the linked articles, and I did not see anything to indicate that he was even a collector of guns, much less a "fetishist" (whatever that means...).
posted by broadway bill at 5:49 PM on October 19, 2011


This USA Today story says he was a gun collector.

Just this summer, another exotic animal collector in Ohio was found dead: "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."
posted by needled at 5:57 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I picked that bit up from this comment up here; I assumed it meant someone here had come across a Facebook profile or something depicting the guy parading around like a clown with his guns out and a tough-guy look on his face as a certain kind of irresponsible gun owner who thinks guns are a kind of toy for grown-ups rather than a deadly serious tool you don't play around with are sometimes inclined to do. But I wasn't sure if it was true, so I said "if." Not sure where the insinuation he was that kind of gun enthusiast came from.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:01 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


ah--should have previewed. needled's got it.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:01 PM on October 19, 2011


Just awful. So many animals had to be killed that could've been sent to other facilities. Regulation of exotic animals really should be the norm all over. There's no reason for anyone to have a tiger or bear on their property. Poor creatures.
posted by Salmonberry at 6:01 PM on October 19, 2011


Just this summer, another exotic animal collector in Ohio was found dead: "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."

I...what?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:02 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


jabberjaw, I'd really like to watch that movie. Or collect the graphic novel. Seriously.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:05 PM on October 19, 2011


You don't think there could be ... A Monkey on the Lamb?
posted by shothotbot at 6:05 PM on October 19, 2011


Macho bullshit, keeping dangerous/exotic animals.
posted by maxwelton at 6:13 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


.
posted by Sailormom at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2011


Metafilter: a ton of rapidly warming frozen monkeys, monkey bits, and monkey poo.
posted by KathrynT at 6:19 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


More apropos, though --I used to work at a Large Software Company in Redmond, and at one of our beer o'clock "knock off work early and drink on the company's dime" mixers, someone brought a gin-u-wine bengal tiger cub, on a collar and leash. It was darling, and the guy kept it well under control; he explained that it was important for the animal to learn to deal with crowds and lots of different people. He was fully licensed and permitted, and I guess I agree with him, but I was really uncomfortable with the whole thing. It seemed, for lack of a better word, unnatural.
posted by KathrynT at 6:22 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thompson was imprisoned for a year on weapons charges.

If the former link is too far out on the left coast for you, here's a more first-hand source.
posted by bad grammar at 6:33 PM on October 19, 2011


Authorities said they answered many calls at the 73-acre spread over the years, including reports of animal cruelty.
Sooo they knew the guy was running an amateur zoo and abusing the animals, and yet the well-known Amateur Abuse Zoo run by a crazy person was allowed to continue, because they never expected it to end in tragedy? Are we sure this is the right universe?

Ohio officials are considering regulations on exotic and wild pets.
Yes, that is such a tough decision, it deserves years and years of consideration. Oh man, I'd hate to be the Solomon who had to make that kind of hard choice.
posted by bleep at 6:36 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't get it, they answered the abuse calls and then went home, satisfied in their work?
posted by bleep at 6:38 PM on October 19, 2011


That sentence about the other collector is such a WTF. Mask? Waterbed? Dead of what?

So I looked it up.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:51 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


And here's the article. Not at all what I was thinking I'd find.
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:52 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would be good if article explained what animals MIGHT STILL BE OUT THERE. Or is it like the corrupt mayor out of Jaws? Gotta keep it hush hush.

They mention a wolf and a monkey but it is not made clear if that is all that's on the loose. If the police don't know then it would be good to report that.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:03 PM on October 19, 2011


(amending my earlier comment - it should read "Mr. Thompson" not "Mr. Hanna." Jack Hanna is a fine person. Mr Thompson, not so much)
posted by Joey Michaels at 7:09 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


good lord, dpx.mfx, that's, uh... Well, that's some additions to my list of words I'd like not to appear in notices of my death (I call it the David Carradine Memorial Word List), namely

a two-piece metal sphere covering his head

Yup. I'd like to avoid situations in which that might be part of the story relating my strange and untimely death.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ladies and gentlemen, a film to curl your toes: The Tiger Next Door.

I recently visited the big cat sanctuary featured in this film, the Exotic Feline Rescue Center.

(A worthy charity if you're looking for one. They do wonderful work with animals damaged by idiot people like this dude. Did you know there are big cat dentists who do root canals on tigers?)

There need to be laws against private ownership of wild animals. It is nothing but abuse, plain and simple. An atrocity.

...................................................
posted by spitbull at 7:21 PM on October 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I watched The Elephant in the Living Room a couple of weeks ago, and this is basically what the animal control expert (one of the protagonists) warns against several times: people are collecting wild, dangerous beasts like pokemon, and this will not end well.

If you haven't seen this documentary, do it. You need to have a strong stomach, though - it has one of the most graphic scenes of animal abuse I've ever seen, and I wish I could unsee.
posted by falameufilho at 8:11 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sad story. But I hope that monkey and the wolf are on an adventure to freedom together.

If they can somehow make their way to Ukraine, they might join a pack of radioactive wolves in the exclusion zone.
posted by homunculus at 8:44 PM on October 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This story is so disturbing and heartbreaking. I just saw a clip of Jack Hanna choking back tears on the news.
posted by marimeko at 8:57 PM on October 19, 2011


OF COURSE Ted Nugent is involved somehow.
posted by davejay at 9:07 PM on October 19, 2011


There need to be laws against private ownership of wild animals.

As a lot of the articles point out, there are such laws in most US states. Ohio is not among them.

It would be good if article explained what animals MIGHT STILL BE OUT THERE.

I think the answer is "one herpetic monkey"
posted by jessamyn at 10:09 PM on October 19, 2011


This one from 8 years ago is a lot more unfathomable to me.

I think the answer is "one herpetic monkey"

Lulz. But when I read an article from such an esteemed journal I'd rather not put it down *thinking* I might know how many wild animals are on the loose. Bad journalism.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:19 PM on October 19, 2011


Holy Hell Ted Nugent is right about something.

That said, I've long desired a fennec fox as a pet, but they are domesticable and would cause no call to be killed if one escaped. Still rethinking that now, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:27 PM on October 19, 2011


Seconding The Elephant in the Living Room, and you can hear a lot about the topic in a long interview with the director on The Documentary Blog Podcast, Episode 12.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:29 PM on October 19, 2011


The answer to most of life's conundrums really does seem to be "one herpetic monkey".
posted by darkstar at 10:29 PM on October 19, 2011


desjardins: "But I hope that monkey and the wolf are on an adventure to freedom together.

Fess up, who's thinking about a Disney movie
"

Oh but so close to a Joanna Newson song.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:30 PM on October 19, 2011


As far as freezing and cell damage... for small samples it's possible to freeze things so fast and under high enough pressure (~2000 atmospheres) that they are frozen in a vitreous state that keeps cells from being damaged. This is commonly done with cryo-TEM samples to preserve cell structure prior to imaging.
posted by Quack at 10:59 PM on October 19, 2011


Holy Hell Ted Nugent is right about something.

Plumb crazy ≠ never right.

Sooo they knew the guy was running an amateur zoo and abusing the animals, and yet the well-known Amateur Abuse Zoo run by a crazy person was allowed to continue, because they never expected it to end in tragedy?

No Ohio law governs exotics. In this case, local authorities were concerned for a very long time, but had no power to force changes.

I hope the state will now reconsider this omission.
posted by dhartung at 11:19 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


need to be destroyed

I hate this euphemism. Destroyed, like it was a ship or a hero's arch-nemesis. It's like telling a child their dead pet went to a farm upstate to roam free. It's just the kind of weasel-word I would expect to be used by people that lack the fundamental training to properly, professionally capture wild animals, and instead have to resort to shooting them dead. Eighteen Bengal tigers? What the fucking fuck? You idiots never hear of fucking tranquilizer guns?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:54 PM on October 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


They shot one tiger with a tranq dart and that pissed it off so they had to shoot it at close range. People matter more, for better or worse.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 12:34 AM on October 20, 2011


Destroy is actually a very old term, Civil_Disobedient, and I fail to see how it is a euphemism. It probably derives from the Norman influence on British legal vocabulary. If you grow up in a rural area, it is just the term that is used, not anything substituted.

They did have veterinarians on site, and for fuck's sake called in Jack Fuckin' Hanna, who saw no other way to handle the situation. It's an appalling situation, but it never should have been allowed to arise in the first place, had Ohio given some attention to the regulation of this type of operation.
posted by dhartung at 12:35 AM on October 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Destroy is actually a very old term, Civil_Disobedient, and I fail to see how it is a euphemism

Destroy is actually a very old euphemism, used exclusively for animals to re-emphasize their inferior status in the human-dominated ecosystem.

As for Jack Fuckin' Hanna, I don't understand his logic: "Can you imagine trying to tranquilize an animal in the dark?" he asks. No, I imagine that would be pretty fuckin' hard, Jack Fuckin' Hanna. But I guess it's beyond the realm of possibility to ask the people of Zanesville to just stay inside until daylight? You've got some wildly endangered animals, you can't just ask people to put off going out to McDonald's for a few hours? That's just totally off the tables to ask the all-important Zanesvillians to be temporarily inconvenienced.

They shot one tiger with a tranq dart and that pissed it off

I didn't realize that was the only one they had.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:45 AM on October 20, 2011


I just watched Animal Cops Houston earlier today, they were rounding up assorted poultry from a pot farm where the owners got busted. They basically 'kettled' the birds, only slowly instead of roughly. They did not want to stress out the chickens, ducks and geese.
I know it was raining, rough country for searching for abandoned exotic animals , and people nearby who could have been harmed. The fact school was closed tells me they had the time to do this job in a better
way. Sad to see so many rare animals dead. And shame on Kasic for not fixing the law on private ownership of exotic animals!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:52 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Did they end up shooting any horses, bison, llamas, giraffes or camels? Because aside from bison, those animals are not dangerous if you don't do anything stupid.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:15 AM on October 20, 2011


They shot one tiger with a tranq dart and that pissed it off so they had to shoot it at close range.

And the other dozen-plus tigers they shot? Bunch of trigger happy cops if you ask me. Jack "Crocodile Tears" Hanna. Why the hell is he an authority on this?
.
.
Destroy is actually a very old euphemism, used exclusively for animals to re-emphasize their inferior status in the human-dominated ecosystem.

Destroy is actually a very old euphemism, used exclusively for animals to re-emphasize their inferior status in the human-dominated ecosystem.

What's that term where well meaning humans try and credit human logic and compassion to random animalistic behaviour of animals? Your comment kinda sounded like that - but in reverse.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:50 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Hanna said tranquilizing wild animals is not as easy as many people believe.

'I’ve been out all over the world tranquilizing animals,” he said. “Can you imagine trying to tranquilize an animal in the dark. Fine, we have a spotlight. We hit it. You don’t know exactly: Did you hit a muscle? Did you hit a bone? If you hit the bone, the plunger might not work and put the medicine in. So what do we do? Then we send a veterinarian or the sheriff up there to see if the animal is down, right? What’s gonna happen if the animal is just sitting there not even asleep? You’re dead.'

Hanna told [Diane] Sawyer that when the wife of Terry Thompson, the man who released the animals and then committed suicide, arrived on the scene, she was shaking and angry.

'She said she was coming to rip me apart because I was taking her animals,” said Hanna, who is helping move the remaining animals to the Columbus Zoo in Powell, Ohio. “When she came in there, she was totally not – just nothing was left. Her husband had just committed suicide. … She has 30-something animals laying there in her driveway that are gone. … She was shivering. I hugged her. I started crying with her.

'I could have yelled at her – you know … to lose 18 Bengal tigers in the world today is beyond a tragic loss,” Hanna said. “I can’t describe what that does to me, along with all the other creatures. But when you see a woman that’s lost everything, what do you do? Do I sit there and yell at her? … I sit there and console her and tell her I’m going to try to help her with her animals that’s left, which is nothing, basically. That’s all I could do.'


In every way a tragedy.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 3:14 AM on October 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


The way the sheriff and Hanna explained it in updates yesterday was enough for me:

1) Ohio police don't routinely carry tranquilizer darts capable downing 300lb lions.
2) When the release was discovered they had 1.5 hours till dark.
3) Tranquilizing 300lb animals doesn't always go predictably--add to that unpredictability when you're a cop, not an exotic animal vet.
4) Tranquilizing animals in the dark and in the rain will cause them to hide or sleep or run and not be found until daylight if at all.
5) Several dozen 300lb carnivores on the loose in residential areas is not something you can, as public safety officers, "wait out." e.g., One of the lions was found in a private back yard. Tigers were chasing horses.
6) How far away were these dozens of 300lb carnivores going to be allowed to travel, thus exponentially spreading the threat?

A fucking tragedy, but I believe they handled it the only way they could given the circumstances.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 3:45 AM on October 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


It's just the kind of weasel-word I would expect to be used by people that lack the fundamental training to properly, professionally capture wild animals, and instead have to resort to shooting them dead. Eighteen Bengal tigers? What the fucking fuck? You idiots never hear of fucking tranquilizer guns?

I too am shocked that rural police departments in Ohio aren't equipped to "properly, professionally capture" almost 20 tigers plus a whole menagerie of other animals with an hours notice.

Tranquilizer guns do not work like in video games, tranqing a single large mammal with a rifle in full daylight is difficult and potentially dangerous. That's with preparation. You hit the animal, check that it goes down (which will take a while) and then move in and have your vet potentially inject further anaesthetics as needed to maintain sedation. But... what when there are three other tigers sitting 30 metres away?
Not to mention that very agitated animals often don't go down quickly if at all when hit with a dart.

But I guess it's beyond the realm of possibility to ask the people of Zanesville to just stay inside until daylight?

Stay inside? Sure, if the whole population lives in houses which are tiger and lion proof.
posted by atrazine at 4:16 AM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I didn't realize that was the only one they had.

No, they had 4. And about 50 animals. And probably far fewer tranq darts than that, and anyway a tranq gun has to be handled by an expert. And it was in the dark and rain. You ever try to shoot an animal, Civil, even in broad daylight with a regular gun? I have. Dropping a disoriented, starving, possible aggressive 500 pound cat with a single accurate shot in the dark is no small feat, even with a lethal round.

Now make it 50 times harder, because you get one shot with that dart and if it's not right on the money that animal is either turning on you or headed in the opposite direction now even more disoriented and aggressive.

Those animals had no future anyway. The cops didn't kill them. Terry Thompson killed them. The cops put them out of their misery. I'm no fan of excessive use of force by cops. This wasn't it.
posted by spitbull at 4:42 AM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


I too am shocked that rural police departments in Ohio aren't equipped to "properly, professionally capture" almost 20 tigers plus a whole menagerie of other animals with an hours notice.

I am mildly amused that a police department, that for 8 years, had been regularly called to a property owned by a strange dude that was CHOC FULL OF FARKING TIGERS, might have had, like, um, a plan?

At least one person was there with a tranquiliser shooting at live beasties. Not sure of the exact time frame.

Plus, think of the safety issues of a heap of cops [without a plan] blasting away because "oh noes there's not much light left we have to kill everything!" If they're quoting "safety" as one of the reasons they did it... then have it both ways.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:59 AM on October 20, 2011


Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!
posted by Renoroc at 5:02 AM on October 20, 2011


I bet a shiny nickel that, of the people criticizing the Destroy All Animals plan, none of them have ever tranqed a dozen giant animals in a day. It's not as if tranqing the animals was this moderately difficult solution that they abandoned out of laziness. Tranqing all the animals would have been an essentially impossible task, with a very likely chance of human casualties.

The animals' deaths are on the hands of the "exotic farm" and the suicidal farmer, and on the hands of those who never saw fit to ban the ownership of exotic animals in Ohio. They were the ones who put everyone in the Morton's Fork of either catching all the animals (with some human casualties) or killing all the animals (and keeping all the humans safe).

At least one person was there with a tranquiliser shooting at live beasties. Not sure of the exact time frame.

They tried to tranq a tiger, but tranq darts don't work like bullets in a Western, dropping the subject instantly. The tiger immediately charged a human after being tranqed, and they had to shoot the tiger as a result.

Plus, think of the safety issues of a heap of cops [without a plan] blasting away because "oh noes there's not much light left we have to kill everything!" If they're quoting "safety" as one of the reasons they did it... then have it both ways.

Considering how many humans were killed in this event (none, save the suicidal farmer), it looks like they were absolutely right about safety.

The whole thing was just a very, very, very shitty situation. Sad that so many rare, beautiful animals had to die. This is why it's important to not let random idiots keep exotic animals unless they're properly trained, budgeted, and licensed.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:23 AM on October 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


This debate is silly. Now go eat your eggs and bacon.
posted by spitbull at 5:23 AM on October 20, 2011


When my husband told me this story this morning, he just started off saying that the guy opened the cages/fences and committed suicide. And I said, "wow, that'd be a painful way to die," after which he clarified that the man shot himself, to which I replied, "asshole."
posted by litnerd at 5:27 AM on October 20, 2011


Considering how many humans were killed in this event (none, save the suicidal farmer), it looks like they were absolutely right about safety.

Unless, of course, you consider the risk of human casualties worth it in order to save these animals. Which, sadly, some people do.
posted by mreleganza at 5:45 AM on October 20, 2011


As for Jack Fuckin' Hanna, I don't understand his logic: "Can you imagine trying to tranquilize an animal in the dark?"

And that's why they called in Jack Fuckin' Hanna - who has been working closely with animals since he was 11, has nearly 20 years under his belt of running zoos, and has spent more than 45 years working in animal education and conservation efforts - and not you.

Tranqing an already pissed off 300 - 400 pound carnivore in broad daylight is NOT easy, even when you've got a full and experienced team to help. Even if you hit them exactly right - already a crapshoot under the best of circumstances - they can still wander about for HOURS before they finally go down hard enough to tranq 'em again. And gods help you if you tranq one and he turns around and runs after you. You want them to do that in the dark? Didn't you ever watch Wild Kingdom when you were a kid? This shit is not for cops.

What happened in Zanesville is a tragedy. It could have been prevented if our idiot governor had extended the emergency ban on exotic animals, and those creatures had been safely removed to zoos and licensed conservation facilities. Our idiot governor is too busy trying to run what's left of our state into the ground to be bothered with petty things like regulating the ownership of dangerous creatures, so backyard collectors like this one thrive, and it's left to people like Jack Hanna to clean up the mess when things go pear shaped.
posted by MissySedai at 5:46 AM on October 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


BTW, I'm kind of playing devil's advocate here. I think it's a damn shame, but I'd file it under "shit happens" rather than "farking cops."

Plus there's only so much "awww" in a man. There's too much crazy shit going on in the world, and I feel all awwwled out at times.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:47 AM on October 20, 2011


As for this man's motivations, please remember he was likely an animal hoarder, and in that sense, mentally ill. He may have thought the best thing to do (given his plan to commit suicide) would be to "free" his animals. Blame lies squarely upon the idiotically inadequate laws of Ohio.

I console myself by imagining a tiger who has spent its entire life trapped in a too small cage having a few brief moments of joyous abandon chasing a horse, possibly the only time it ever had a shot at worthy prey.
posted by agregoli at 6:24 AM on October 20, 2011


Unless, of course, you consider the risk of human casualties worth it in order to save these animals.

Are there any examples of animals who have killed a human but have been allowed to live? These animals would have almost definitely been destroyed if humans were killed. They put down pet dogs for that, let alone wild animals. If I had to choose between dead human + dead animal or just dead animal, I'll choose the latter.
posted by desjardins at 6:31 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, this is exactly what this situation needs: the reasoned opinions of Ted Nugent.

Perhaps the solution is to pretend our face is a Maserati?
posted by clvrmnky at 7:11 AM on October 20, 2011


6 animals including a grizzly bear were relocated to the zoo, so I'd be surprised if it wasn't zoo employees operating the tranq gun.

One of the stories I read yesterday said that a third of the animals were killed literally as soon as the cops arrived. They received a call about one of the big cats being on the highway and went out to the sanctuary to talk to Thompson. Upon arrival they could see him lying prone on the porch with three "large, aggressive" animals nearby and that all the cages were open, some of them also cut so the animal was certain not to close itself in. As they made their way to the house, they shot 25 animals before they could even verify that he was dead.

This story is a tragedy all around, yet I keep thinking about what it must have been like for those first cops arriving at the scene. I have sympathy for the animals and feel bad about their lives and their fate, but my god... as a human being my attention is firmly held by the idea of these guys being literally surrounded by alpha predators. Having known that Thompson was a problem and that it would end badly, but never having expected this. That had to be the most terrifying wait for backup ever.

Also I'll bet there are some crestfallen taxidermists in Ohio this morning, since they announced that they're burying the animals on sanctuary property.
posted by heatvision at 7:22 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are there any examples of animals who have killed a human but have been allowed to live?
Yes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:30 AM on October 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just keep wondering, where did the money come from to obtain all these expensive animals, feed and house them?
posted by Scram at 8:09 AM on October 20, 2011


MrMoonPie - good point, but it's a little easier to avoid further mishaps with a captive orca - just don't go near them. It's not like it can follow you to your car. A loose bear who has lost its fear of people is a threat to everyone.
posted by desjardins at 8:14 AM on October 20, 2011


Scram, he had an inheritance, and used to be an arms dealer.
posted by heatvision at 8:15 AM on October 20, 2011


“When she came in there, she was totally not – just nothing was left. Her husband had just committed suicide. … She has 30-something animals laying there in her driveway that are gone. … She was shivering. I hugged her. I started crying with her.

I don't tend to be a terribly emotional person, but everything about this image makes me want to cry. Maybe it's the idea that you could come home and find everything you cared about just gone, but the whole idea is just horrifying to me.
posted by quin at 8:34 AM on October 20, 2011


MeTa
posted by albrecht at 8:48 AM on October 20, 2011


An Arms dealer? Seriously?

Jesus.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2011


Considering Hanna's quote about the wife, I wonder if the arms dealer released the animals because they belonged to the wife?
posted by drezdn at 10:03 AM on October 20, 2011


He acquired some of the animals by trading guns for them. He was also the owner of a custom motorcycle shop.
posted by heatvision at 10:53 AM on October 20, 2011


I'm sure many people who criticize the police for using lethal force are aware that they do not have the experience nor the training to perform these actions themselves. I'm sure their reactions have root in limited knowledge of how tranquilizer darts work, and it's likely the source of this knowledge comes from the telly. Like the "CSI effect," but for wildlife shows.

Every time we see a team of researchers on TV tranquilizing a bear, we only see the initial shot, and then the animal lies down. I myself have very little clue about how long it actually takes, much like how I don't really know how long it would take for my local Law & Order: SVU to process the DNA of a pedophile. Conceptually I know it can be done, and in the back of my mind I understand that it will take longer than a couple of seconds or commercial breaks, but I don't really know how long, nor do I know how much preparation is needed beforehand.

I guess I just sometimes wish the authorities or whoever is making the press release starts off with a disclaimer like, "Everyone, please understand that [activity] is not like how it's portrayed on TV." It seems that the number of people who have unrealistic expectations has far exceeded the number of those who don't. Perhaps (ideally) if enough press conferences for these types of situations start off that way, we all can be a bit more understanding of the process, and maybe learn something, too.
posted by CancerMan at 10:57 AM on October 20, 2011


This story is a tragedy all around, yet I keep thinking about what it must have been like for those first cops arriving at the scene. I have sympathy for the animals and feel bad about their lives and their fate, but my god... as a human being my attention is firmly held by the idea of these guys being literally surrounded by alpha predators. Having known that Thompson was a problem and that it would end badly, but never having expected this. That had to be the most terrifying wait for backup ever.

I don't know so much that they never expected this. The problem lies in the fact that Ohio law is incredibly lax in these matters, effectively tying the hands of law enforcement. These collectors are all over the state - there are two "petting zoos" in my city alone that host not only small critters like lemurs and capuchins, but tigers and lions, too.

In 2000, I was invited by someone I had known on Usenet to visit his " tiger conservation foundation" in Gambier, OH, about 2 hours South of me. He had all the requisite certificates, so I went. Turns out, dude was keeping tigers and lions IN HIS HOUSE. I shit you not. The cubs and one of the mama tigers had free roam of the house. The lions and other tigers lived in large enclosures and a barn outside. I was admittedly overcome with glee at being able to get up close and pet and snuggle these animals (I really, really, really love big cats), and I still count it as one of the most incredible experiences of my life. But a few weeks later, a student from the neighboring college was mauled at that facility, and I learned that the permits had been revoked months prior to my own visit, but because of lax state laws, little could be done about getting the animals out. It took YEARS of lawsuits until those critters were finally rescued and shipped down to the Big Cat Rescue in Florida.

It wasn't until a couple years after my visit that I learned how badly off those creatures were - declawed and half of their teeth pulled - and my heart still breaks for them. They deserve so much better, and would have been much better served by a zoo or other REAL conservation facility. Until the Ohio legislature and our piss-poor excuse for a governor step up to the plate, this is going to continue, and the cops can't do diddly.
posted by MissySedai at 11:00 AM on October 20, 2011 [5 favorites]


Preserve Owner Was Bitten By Big Cat, Authorities Say

In addition to leaving behind the mystery of why he let his animals loose knowing they would likely be killed, Mr. Thompson left behind another puzzle: store-bought chicken parts, which he used to feed his animals, were left in the driveway not far from his body.
posted by heatvision at 12:21 PM on October 20, 2011


Ohio owner of exotic animals was deep in debt
posted by heatvision at 1:05 PM on October 20, 2011


What a dick.
posted by Divine_Wino at 3:21 PM on October 20, 2011


Are there any examples of animals who have killed a human but have been allowed to live? The tiger that mauled Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy fame was allowed to live because he specifically interceded, "While being taken to the hospital, Horn said, "Montecore is a great cat. Make sure no harm comes to Montecore."

Horn didn't die, but it was about as close as it gets: "Horn was in critical condition for several weeks thereafter, and was said to have suffered a stroke and partial paralysis. Doctors removed one-quarter of his skull to relieve the pressure of his swelling brain during an operation known as a decompressive craniectomy."

Siegfried (Firschbacher) was on Larry King, and he, "said Horn fell during the act and Montecore was attempting to drag him to safety, as a mother tigress would pull one of her cubs by the neck. Fischbacher said Montecore had no way of knowing that Horn, unlike a tiger cub, did not have fur and thick skin covering his neck and that his neck was vulnerable to injury." (via)

I'm a very fervent animal rights activist, and I'm glad the big cat was not killed for just doing what big cats do, but I'm not sure that isn't a romanticized version of what actually happened, told by the men who worked with the animal, in order to save its life. Wild animals kept in captivity are never really fully domesticated.

Sadly, they can also never go back to the wild after being kept as "pets." I've personally called wildlife animal rescue agencies after seeing people with exotic animals taking them around and displaying them like toys, like they were around just to entertain us people. I'm always shocked when I realize that only some states (thankfully mine is one of them) have the proper restrictions in place to protect the animals (and, potentially, innocent people).
posted by misha at 4:31 PM on October 21, 2011


Australian toddler and lion cub become firm friends
posted by homunculus at 8:46 AM on November 6, 2011


« Older Skeinz is a yarn store. Their current newsletter i...  |  You know those Coke Freestyle ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments