Breaking News: Exotic Animals Run Loose in Ohio


UPDATE (2:45pm PST): Out of the 56 animals on the loose, 49 have been killed and six are now at the Columbus Zoo. Police are still searching for a monkey who is suspected of being infected with herpes B. Investigators say Terry Thompson, owner of the animals, “died from a self-inflicted wound” and reportedly released the animals before killing himself.

Zanesville, Ohio is the scene of some frightening happenings this morning.  Over 50 exotic animals escaped from Muskingum County Animal farm last evening and have wondered throughout the rural southeastern Ohio community.

Lions, tigers, grizzly and black bears, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes and camels are on the loose.  Police last night — in response to 911 calls — began shooting the wild animals on sight, aiming mainly for the cats, bears and wolves.  It is reported of the 48 animals known to be at large, 31 have been killed.  Members of the Columbus Zoo are on hand to try and save the remaining animals by tranquilizer guns.

Terry Thompson — the owner of the animals — was found dead at his 40 acre Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville.  Fences were unsecured and cages were found opened.  However, orangutans and chimpanzees who lived inside his home were found secured in their cages.  The cause of Thompson’s death is not released at this time, although some of the large carnivores were found near his body.

Thompson reportedly was recently released from prison on federal weapon charges.  He was also convicted in 2005 of animal abuse and neglect relating to some cows and a bison on his farm.  Animal reported he “deprived three cows and a buffalo of necessary sustenance which led to their deaths in early 2005.”

His sentence for the animal abuse was six months of house arrest and a fine of $2,870 which included court costs.  In a case of future hindsight, Frieda Douthitt, a volunteer at the Zanesville Animal Shelter Society, said at the time “I’m disappointed that he’s still allowed to keep the exotic animals and that the jail time wasn’t mandatory.”

The main concern right now is for public safety.  Police have recommended closing schools and are warning residents not to go outside or leave their vehicles.  If a sighting is seen they request people call 911 to report it.

Ohio has very lax laws regarding exotic animals.  Hopefully this tragedy will cause the state to address this.  You can view a YouTube video of the situation.  Want to help?  Sign the Care2 petition.

Care2 will keep you updated as more information is released.

Related Stories:

Exotic Pets: Bad for Animals, bad for Humans

Don’t Put a Collar on Exotic Animals

Tell Your Legislators No to Captive Hunting


Photo credit: Yagen Kiely via Flickr

Photo credit: Yagen Kiely via Flickr


William C
William C10 months ago

Thanks for caring.

W. C.
W. C2 years ago

Thank you.

Waltraud U.
Waltraud U6 years ago

Very sad for the animals - first captured and then dead.

Susan Griffiths
Susan Griffiths6 years ago

It is inappropriate and most often cruel to keep exotic animals as pets, let alone as displays and unfortunately there is a fine line between a pet and a display. The lucky ones get rescued and put into sanctuaries, but this is a miniscule percentage.

Waltraud U.
Waltraud U6 years ago

Infantilism in Ohio too.

Karen R.
Karen R6 years ago

Not only was this guy stupid but the way they've handled it here in Ohio maddens me!

Ismail H.
Izzy H7 years ago

If you would like to help exotic animals, please vote daily until November 30 to save monkeys in Canada.

Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary is in the running to win $100 000 to build a new barn for more animal rescues!

Vote here:

Carrie Anne Brown

signed already :) but thanks for sharing :)

Beryl F.
Beryl Furman7 years ago

We cannot just stop the sale of exotic animals to be kept as pets, we can achieve som,ething by severly forbidding all pets. Though it is theoretically posibble to give dogs a good life with human beings, it seldom happens, because of the nature of man. Therefore NO aniamls should be deprived of freedom and the prime need to liove in their own habitat. STOP PET CULTURE TOTALLY!

Douglas Lewis
Douglas Lewis7 years ago

Megan Drake, thank you for your article. I could not look at the photos. You cannot "unsee" something. It must be understood that anything I comment about regarding the sorrowful tragedy in Zanesville certainly has the safety of the human polulace in mind. Others have already commented that the animals are wild and should not be in captivity in the first place. Agreed. Given that there will always be exceptions to situations, where is the disaster recovery plan when things go awry? Shouldn't there be one? This had to be exceptional. The guy took himself out. Hard to implement a plan when that happens. Point is, if the law enforcement community had full disclosure on the animal specifications they may have been able to contact wild life experts sooner and perhaps implement a different strategy on some of the animals instead of killing them all. This cannot be undone. To me it is just such a waste and so very sad.