A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Oct 19, 2011

Loose Wild Animals Gunned Down in Ohio

Wild animals, including lions, tigers, bears, and wolves, were turned loose from a private collectors' property in Zanesville, Ohio. It is believed that the owner of the site, Terry Thompson, turned the animals loose before dying from a self-inflicted wound. Schools were closed, and the public was directed to stay inside as there were reports of wild animals running loose outside the property. Approximately 50 animals were believed to live at that site. 
Lion Shot in Ohio - Courtesy of Associated Press

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz issued the order to shoot to kill the animals in the name of public safety. Most of the animals were killed pursuant to Lutz's directive while a few were still being sought.

According to Lutz, about 40 of the animals were killed while still inside the property. Lutz justified this by saying they were short on daylight, they had no sedatives and were concerned about safety. It is unclear why they could not, instead, shut the fence, secure the perimeter, gather experts, supplies and create a plan to contain the animals inside, alive, until daylight while focusing on capturing the animals outside the perimeter that could actually threaten the public. 

The real problem here is the ease with which permits for captive and exotic wildlife can be obtained. Whether one simply wants a pet primate or wishes to house lions for canned hunts, exhibitions or circuses, they need only pay a permit fee. Enforcement of permit requirements and compliance inspections are often infrequently conducted if at all. Whether a lion is kept as a pet or rented out for television commercials etc., he or she is still a dangerous wild animal living in close proximity to people, ostensibly for commercial entertainment. Veterinary care, food and security are expensive which can result in inhumane treatment, substandard husbandry and housing structures, and, in many cases, escape.

In this case, numerous complaints regarding the Thompson compound ranging from animal cruelty to loose animals were lodged with the authorities in Zanesville and, according to Lutz "has been a huge problem for us for a number of years". Gunning them down in the compound solved that problem.

In the end, the animal always suffers. Whether improperly cared for in captivity or killed by a panicked sheriff without a plan, the animal always loses. And in every case, a wild animal will behave true to his or her nature.

There must be an immediate halt to the issuing of such permits, a re-evaluation of the status of current permit holders, and an investigation of Lutzs' handling of this case.

Now there are even fewer Bengal tigers in our world, or as Lutz called him or her "this thing".

Article first published as Loose Wild Animals Gunned Down in Ohio on Technorati.

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