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Will Terry Thompson’s Widow Get Surviving Exotic Animals Back?

Will Terry Thompson’s Widow Get Surviving Exotic Animals Back?

Last week, Terry Thompson made national news when he committed suicide shortly after releasing his personal menagerie of exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio. Police killed most of the animals and several others ate each other or were hit by cars. Now Thompson’s widow wants the six remaining live animals returned to her.

The animals — three leopards, two monkeys and a bear — are currently under quarantine at the Columbus Zoo by order of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Currently, Marian Thompson is unable to take the animals but she has the option to appeal and have a hearing in 30 days at which point she could be eligible to take the animals.

The animals are always stuck between a rock and a hard place in these situations. Would it be better for them to languish in a cage in a zoo to be mistreated and gawked at by zoo patrons for the rest of their lives? Or should they be sent back to languish in a cage on a private farm without the gawking but also without any professionally trained staff to make sure the animals are cared for in the event that someone, say, opens their cages and commits suicide?

Ohio has long been under fire from animal advocates for their lax exotic pet laws, and that criticism usually strengthens when a story about a human injured by an exotic pet makes national news. There were similar cries to ban or at least curtail exotic pets last year after one caretaker was killed by a bear and a woman was blinded by a chimpanzee.

This time at least people are also concerned about the animals themselves rather than just the safety of nearby humans. But it’s abundantly clear every time that a story like this makes the national news: exotic pets are bad for humans and bad for animals.

Ohio has enacted new laws in response to earlier outrages but none of those laws has ever gone so far as to outright ban the keeping of exotic animals as pets and that is the only way that this problem will ever be solved.

We will see tragedies like this as long as humans see value in animals insofar as they are amusing to look at, fun to play with, or confer some kind of luxury or wealth status on their caretakers. We have to break away from our paradigm of perceiving nature as only having value equal to the amount of use we can get out of it.

Whether these remaining animals are kept in a private zoo on Thompson’s farm or whether they will remain in a public zoo will likely make very little practical difference. The only responsible and ethical thing to do with these animals would be to release them either into the wild if that’s possible or at the very least to find a suitable sanctuary where they can be cared for in peace far away from any zoo cages, public or private.

 

Take Action! Tell Ohio Governor John Kasich not to return the surviving animals back to Marian Thompson!

 

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Photo credit: OpenCage

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174 comments

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6:04AM PST on Feb 8, 2013

I work with a sancturay for exotic cats that need to be rehomed for many reasons. If we,or places like us don't take them, they are usually euthanized. If she can afford to take care of those animals and is willing to take care of them she should probably get them back. They already have encloseurs built to suit them there, and they are familiar with the property. To them it would be like going home, and the zoo will not keep them forever. They managed to survive that horrible experience, they deserve to go home if possible.

7:54AM PST on Feb 7, 2013

thanks for sharing-

9:35AM PDT on May 2, 2012

no

9:13PM PST on Dec 22, 2011

If the animals can be cared for, they should be returned. They are property that now belong to her by all rights. Her reasons for claiming them are hers alone.

On the bigger issue of private ownership, private individuals play an important role in species conservation. The majority of endangered animals cannot be saved by zoos alone, as they have neither the resources, room or desire to keep the less showy species. Zoos maintain displays to appeal to their paying customers. There is a serious shortage of captive habitat that can only be remedied by the private sector. The proper way is through PERMITTING rather than PROHIBITING.

11:31AM PST on Nov 20, 2011

thanks for sharing :)

6:03PM PST on Nov 14, 2011

No to the wife -- she's concerned with the monetary value of the animals. Probably can't be set free, but a sanctuary would give them as close a life as possible, to the one they were meant to have in the world.

I agree with everything the author said about the ridiculous reasons people want exotics. They don't belong with people, but living as they were intended. This tragedy points this out so well, but it was so unnecessary -- it never should have been in place, to happen. Damn that egotistical idiot.

8:55AM PST on Nov 11, 2011

(Holy crap, I suck at this legible posting thing, sorry)

Differences

- Conservation Investment
A zoo’s philosophy is grounded in conservation. While animal sanctuaries support this basic philosophy as well, zoos are more “active” about pursuing it. They visit foreign countries, invest in research, sponsor special programs and purchase land for preservation … all in pursuit of this objective. It is an extremely worthy and just cause. It is also very costly.

- Endangered Species
Similarly, zoos will devote a great deal of time and money to preserve endangered species. Two strategies used by zoos to protect animals at risk are captivity and breeding. While sanctuaries recognize the importance of all living animals, they will not breed or keep animals in captivity, at the expense of removing them from their natural habitat.

- Diverse Exhibits (and costs)
Zoos usually have more diverse and exotic exhibits. This requires more expertise and a greater knowledge of specie-specific diets, needs and veterinary care. It also requires more money.

- Public Access
Zoos are open to the general public. Sanctuaries oftentimes have limited access. The reason behind this restriction is to more closely emulate a “natural” environment and to avoid any stress as a result of an “unnatural” human presence which is not found in the wild.

- Size
Sanctuaries typically provide more space per animal tha

8:53AM PST on Nov 11, 2011

(Let's try this posting again) Comparison: Zoo vs. Sanctuary

Simply put, a zoo believes in breeding and captivity as a means to ensure the survival of a species. An animal sanctuary focuses on providing a safe haven for animals in need.

This is the essence of their difference.

Upon closer examination, we will find other differences, but similarities as well.

Similarities

- Long Term Goals
Both have the ultimate dream that a time will come when their facility is no longer needed. It is a fantasy where peace becomes reality and man learns to live in harmony with his fellow man and with nature. And it is a dream of returning the animals to their natural environment.

- Animal Care
Both protect the animals in their keep and strive to provide them with the best possible, natural environment, free from stress and need.

- Education
Both serve to educate the public. To make others aware of the issues and threats to these animals and to instill a respect and reverence for all life and the world which we all share.

- Licensing
Both require proper licensing to house each species of animal within their facility. Both are subject to regulations and/or inspections by various governmental agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Differences
- Conservation Investment
A zoo’s philosophy is grounded

8:51AM PST on Nov 11, 2011

Comparison: Zoo vs. Sanctuary



Simply put, a zoo believes in breeding and captivity as a means to ensure the survival of a species. An animal sanctuary focuses on providing a safe haven for animals in need.



This is the essence of their difference.

Upon closer examination, we will find other differences, but similarities as well.


Similarities



- Long Term Goals
Both have the ultimate dream that a time will come when their facility is no longer needed. It is a fantasy where peace becomes reality and man learns to live in harmony with his fellow man and with nature. And it is a dream of returning the animals to their natural environment.

- Animal Care
Both protect the animals in their keep and strive to provide them with the best possible, natural environment, free from stress and need.

- Education
Both serve to educate the public. To make others aware of the issues and threats to these animals and to instill a respect and reverence for all life and the world which we all share.

- Licensing
Both require proper licensing to house each species of animal within their facility. Both are subject to regulations and/or inspections by various governmental agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


Differences

- Conservation Investment
A zoo’s philosophy is grounded in conservati

8:51AM PST on Nov 11, 2011

Just to add some clarity to the debate. Below is a comparison of zoos and sanctuaries. And there seems to be a misconception that sanctuaries are little animal gardens of Eden where animals frolic at will. I have no problem with sanctuaries, god bless them for being there to take in the refuse of idiotic exotic pet owners. But sanctuaries facilities are not much different then zoos. There are still fences, there are still indoor holding areas where animals may have to spend time, there are still people coming to see them. And, unfortunately, some still breed their animals (wasn't there a poster before we that showed herself pictured with tiger cubs that were being toted around to raise awareness for that sanctuary?), animals that will grow up to take up even more limited space and resources. Be sure to check that any sanctuary, or zoo, you support is accredited. Any yahoo can take in a few tigers, declare themselves a sanctuary/rescue and start taking in donations. I don't care where these animals go, whether it be to an accredited sanctuary or zoo, as long as she does not get them back. And, please, stop saying they should go back to the wild. They would end up either starving to death or getting shot when they walked up to some unsuspecting human. And, pray tell, where is this "wild" that everyone keeps speaking of? Species in nature are almost as regulated and confined as domestic species now. Practically all of Africa is just a series of managed game parks right now. Anyw

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