Tell Ohio It’s Time to Ban Dangerous Exotic Animals

GraceyYesterday, not too far from my habitat, innocent animals that had been living in deplorable conditions were set free from their cages and their owner was found dead on the farm where he kept these animals. The media began reporting that lions and tigers and bears were on the loose in Muskingum County.  But the truth was that most of these animals were still nearby their habitats. I bet they were frightened and confused.

In total there were 56 animals. 48 were killed right away:  18 tigers, 17 lions, 6 black bears,  3 mountain lions, 2 grizzly bears, 1 baboon and 1 wolf.  While many were criticizing the Sheriff’s department for putting the animals down, with only one hour of daylight left, and the possibility of  large carnivores escaping into the night, the Sheriff did the best that he could do. The safety of people in the surrounding area had to come first.

The Columbus Zoo was able to transport  3 leopards, 2 monkeys, and 1 grizzly bear.  For a period of time the news reported that only 1 grizzly bear, 1 mountain lion and 1 monkey were still on the loose but last report in, all the animals have been accounted for; 50 animals dead and 6 being cared for by the capable staff at our Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

A few weeks ago  I asked  our small paws to unite to make a difference by signing our names to the most important action to save Tigers in over 10 years  That was for The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s  proposal to amend the regulations that implement the Endangered Species Act by removing inter-subspecific crossed or generic tiger (Panthera tigris)(i.e.,specimens not identified or identifiable as members of Bengal, Sumatran, Siberian or Indochinese subspecies) from the list of species that are exempt from registration under the Captive-bred Wildlife (CBW) regulations.

You might be wondering why this is so  important.  There is an estimated over 5,000 tigers in captivity in the United States and the reason we don’t know how many tigers are in captivity is because in 1998  the US Fish and Wildlife Service created a rule that exempted “generic” tigers from the permit and reporting requirements that apply to endangered species.  So the tigers living on this farm in Ohio, were not registered, were not properly cared for and in the end, were gunned down to protect  public safety.

We also learned about Michael Webber’s award winning film The Elephant in the Living Room that takes you on a journey into the depth of the controversial American subculture of raising and selling some of the world’s more dangerous animals, as household pets.  The Elephant in the Living Room also gives the viewer a sneak peek at the Mount Hope Exotic Animal Auction held in the middle of what appears to be  serene Amish country.  The blend of the heartland of Ohio mixed with the undercurrent and subculture of trading in exotic and dangerous animals gives the whole scene a rather spooky feeling.

You won’t walk away from the film untouched and you might feel emotionally spent after viewing. I imagine that most of you are like me, in that you are emotionally spent after learning about the tragedy in Ohio that took place on the private farm of Terry Thompson.

There was an order issued by Ohio’s previous Governor Ted Strickland that prohibited anyone who had been “convicted of an offense involving the abuse or neglect of any animal pursuant to any state, local, or federal law” from owning exotic animals.   Had the current Ohio Governor John Kasich not allowed this executive order to lapse after taking office, Thompson would have been prevented from owning exotic animals.  You see, Thompson had an animal cruelty and two other related convictions in 2005, and had just been released from prison after serving one year on federal weapons charges.

So I am asking you to once again take action. Ohio does not regulate private ownership of dangerous wild animals, jeopardizing public safety and animal welfare.  Please help animals now by telling Ohio It is time to ban dangerous exotic animals from backyards and basements.  You can sign the petition here.

Thank you for caring for all animals big and small.

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  1. Teaching students about these animals and help them imagine what they look like, and how they may interact with humans. Another option to maintain free pet birds such as cockatrice or parrots.

  2. I’m going to sign right after I post here. We must have laws that ban ownership of exotics.  I visited an orangutan wildlife refuge in Borneo. Yes, the babies are cute, but they grow up to be wild animals. This refuge is wonderful, but it makes my blood boil that people can be so selfish as to think that they can be a pet parent to a wild animal. It makes me question people’s intelligence. Thank you for this post. 

    • Well, @facebook-1504249976:disqus , we don’t want to get into trouble by comparing cat smarts versus people smarts.  hahahahaha.  The sanctuaries  are filled to capacity trying to rescue animals from people who thought they wanted  exotic pets but then realize how hard it is to provide for them.   

  3. Thank you Gracey for such an important and informative post. The events in Zanesville are truly tragic and disturbing. Hopefully these animals deaths will not be in vain and private ownership of exotic animals will be banned in Ohio to ensure the safety of the public and the welfare of the animals. It’s imperative we voice our concerns by taking action at the link you provided.

    • Thank you @facebook-779562737:disqus  You are a strong advocate for our big cat cousins too.  Maybe this tragedy will bring about regulations.  xoxo

  4. suzanne paulsen says

    What happened today says it all…..we need this law so something like this does not happen again.  Luckily there were no people injured but oh how terrible that these beautiful animals had to suffer.Wild animals should not be kept in captivity!

    • We do need regulations Suzanne and perhaps that will be the light that comes from this darkness.  xoxo Thank you for being my friend.

  5. Tell EVERY state to strengthen legislation!  What happened in Ohio was totallly preventable.

  6. Fear of native animals in the wild and the response in a case where wild animals never should have been are really two different issues. Even experienced wildlife handlers were saying that under the given circumstances, there was little else that could have been done in Zanesville. The lesson here is that Thompson never should have had them in the first place. I have been reading about him for years and now this. Anyway, petitions signed. Thanks, Gracey, for providing those links. 

  7. I have just attempted to send the petition.  When I clicked submit, it shows one of those codes that you usually have to type in to prove you’re not a bot.  I retyped the code, and it said my solution to the puzzle is incorrect.  It posted a new code, and asks that I solve the puzzle and enter the solution.  Either I do not understand the puzzle, or this is their way of preventing anyone else from sending them this petition.

    • Thank you for trying Laura.   Please keep trying.  I have trouble with the captcha codes too.

  8. Certainly, ownership needs to be regulated, but that alone won’t solve the problem. The response of law enforcement also needs to be regulated.  I cry every time ours “have to” shoot a mountain lion here.  I think that Fish & Wildlife need to come down hard on law enforcement officers who kill endangered animals which are not threatening imminent harm.  If the mountain lion is about to pounce on a child, regrettably, he’s going to have to be put down.  If he’s milling around the yard where he’s been living for who knows how long, why can’t we wait 30 minutes for animal control to come out and tranquilize him?  Better still: why can’t patrol officers be trained on use of tranquilizers and have access to them?  

    • It is so complicated Laura. Tranquilizing an animal is also dangerous.  I know they have to put human safety first. As humans encroach upon wildlife habitats this conflict will increase.  I agree we need to find ways to live peacefully with large predators.

  9. There’s only so many of those tigers left in the world and 18 of them were killed in Ohio because of weak laws on keeping exotic animals in captivity. Ban residents in the state of Ohio from keeping wild animals in captivity.

  10. this story makes me CRY! 

  11. This tragedy could have been easily avoided if Ohio had stronger laws against private ownership of exotic animals.  You in Ohio MUST change your laws so as to restrict private ownership of these magnificent animals who are, now, dead.

    • You are right Carolyn.  Maybe this tragedy will lead to laws being placed to prevent future animal abuse and risk of public safety.

  12. Signed and shared.