Ohio incident opens the public’s eyes about laws concerning the ownership of wild animals

Terry Thompson released his exotic pets from his animal farm Oct. 18. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Justice)

Lions, tigers and bears; oh my.

It’s not a story about Dorothy and the yellow brick road, but a tragic story about 48 animals shot and killed in Zanesville, Ohio.

Terry Thompson, owner of Muskingum County Animal Farm, shot and killed himself after opening the cages and releasing his exotic pets on Oct. 18. Law enforcement officers were notified, and they responded by shooting and killing most of the exotic animals. Among those pets were 18 rare Bengal tigers, 17 lions, eight grizzly bears, three mountain lions, a baboon, and wolf.

I understand the officers had to keep people safe in Ohio, but I do not believe what they did was right. Bengal tigers are on the endangered species list and according to World Wildlife Fund Global, a conservation organization; there are less than 1,850 of them in the wild. According to The Los Angeles Times, there are over 4,000 tigers in United States zoos.

This is not Thompson’s first run-in with the law; in 2005 he received allegations of animal abuse and served a year in federal prison for possessing unregistered weapons. So after all of that, what gives him the right to keep his exotic pets? Hadn’t authorities ever heard of the saying; when you play with fire, you just might get burned? They literally put a lit match in his hands. Yes, Thompson committed this act himself, but the authorities and the laws should have never allowed this to happen.

In the U.S., only 21 states, including California, forbid the ownership of wild or exotic animals. According to the Humane Society Web site, Ohio has one of the weakest laws on private ownership of exotic animals like the ones Thompson owned. I believe every single state should have laws forbidding ownership of wild animals because in the end, the animals pay the price.

A few positive aspects came out of this atrocity; six of the exotic animals survived and are now under the care of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Thompson’s widow, Marian Thompson, scheduled to pick up the animals, but thankfully the State Department of Agriculture ordered them to be quarantined to the zoo, according to The New York Times.

I hope she is not allowed to have these animals in her possession again; it will be a huge mistake. No one should own wild animals and the lawmakers and voters need to make sure of it. It is the only moral and responsible action to take.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich issued an executive order to strengthen the enforcement of existing laws, which is a step in the right direction. However, what is the point in allowing people to own these types of animals at all? They belong in the wild or to trained people that can properly take care of them, not these backwoods idiots who decide to release 50 animals into their neighbors’ yards.

But just like every other law that emerges in the wake of a tragedy it’s too little, too late.

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