Widow of man who freed exotic animals won't get them back soon

Terry Thompson set wild animals free before killing himself, authorities say. His wife wants six of them back from a zoo.

Story highlights

  • A quarantine order will keep the animals at the zoo, the governor's spokesman says
  • Columbus Zoo officials had hoped to continue caring for the animals
  • Terry Thompson freed lions, tigers, leopards and more at his preserve near Zanesville
The widow of a man who set free 56 exotic animals he owned before apparently committing suicide will not get back the six that survived any time soon, a spokesman for the governor of Ohio said Thursday.
"Today, the Ohio Department of Agriculture issued a quarantine order" on the animals, said Robert Nichols, press secretary for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Nichols noted that it has been widely reported that the animals were malnourished and could be diseased, and said they might pose a public health threat.
Marian Thompson -- whose husband, Terry, released lions, tigers, leopards, grizzly bears and other animals from his preserve near Zanesville, Ohio, last week -- has a right to appeal the order, which is indefinite in length, Nichols said. If she does so, she would be granted a hearing within 30 days.
Earlier in the day, officials at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said in a news release that Thompson was planning to take custody of the animals on Thursday afternoon, despite their hope that the animals would remain at the zoo. Under the quarantine order, that is where they will remain, Nichols said.
Police say Terry Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound shortly after releasing the animals October 18.
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Of the 56 animals released from the Thompsons' preserve, only a grizzly bear, two monkeys and three leopards were taken alive, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz.
Authorities killed two wolves, six black bears, two grizzly bears, nine male lions, eight lionesses, one baboon, three mountain lions, and 18 Bengal tigers. One monkey remained unaccounted for. Lutz and Jack Hanna, conservationist and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, said the animal may have been eaten by one of the big cats.
The Humane Society of the United States has said it does not fault authorities for using deadly force in such a situation. However, the group criticized Kasich, who in response to the incident signed an executive order dealing with private ownership of exotic animals. The order strengthens enforcement of existing laws.
The Humane Society said the order "is inadequate and sidesteps the central problems created by the exotic animal trade in Ohio."
Kasich also said he will push for new laws giving the state increased authority regarding exotic and dangerous animals.