48 Exotic Animals Killed

November 9, 2011 by staff 

48 Exotic Animals Killed, Lions, tigers and a grizzly bear on the loose became a frightening reality for an Ohio town Tuesday after a wildlife sanctuary owner set his animals free.

Zanesville Sheriff Matt Lutz said Wednesday of the big animals that 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, eight bears and a wolf were killed after they were set free from the private Ohio farm.

Six animals were recovered on the property and taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf and a monkey remain on the loose.

Motorists began sounding the alarm Tuesday night after spotting several big-game animals near I-70, about 55 miles east of Columbus.

Authorities and animal experts with the zoo, including TV personality Jack Hanna, were on the scene, hopeful they could tranquilize and capture some of the animals.

Authorities were waiting on the results of an autopsy to determine the exact cause of Thompson’s death, according to CNN. Sheriff Lutz said preliminary investigations indicated Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Lutz speculated Thompson’s actions might have been a last act of vengeance against neighbors and police.

Schools in the area were closed Wednesday and residents were warned to stay inside.

Flashing signs along area highways told motorists, “Caution exotic animals” and “Stay in vehicle.”

The preserve in Zanesville had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears. Lutz said his department had received numerous complaints about the exotic-animal preserve since 2004.

Thompson was released three weeks ago from a one-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2010 to possessing eight illegal firearms, including five fully automatic firearms and three short-barreled firearms without serial numbers.

Hanna defended Lutz’s decision to shoot the animals on sight and said tranquilizing loose animals at night was not feasible.

“You cannot tranquilize an animal like this, a bear or a leopard or a tiger (at nighttime),” Hanna told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday. “If you do that, the animal gets very excited, it goes and hides, and then we have his (Lutz’s) officer in danger of losing their life, and other people.”

Lutz said when deputies arrived at the house, there were large animals trying to escape. The deputies had to shoot them with their sidearms.

“We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat,” he said. “We could not have animals running loose in this county.”

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