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Zanesville's exotic pet woes show Ohio laws need teeth

If the events in Zanesville this week have taught use anything it is that Ohio cops should carry tranquilizer guns just in case they come across a traumatized Bengal tiger or his friend the agitated grizzly bear.

They should also wear shark-resistant wetsuits just in case they run into a great white and a ray gun in the unlikelihood they encounter an unfriendly martian.

Bee keepers masks should be in every squad car as should be bird nests just in case things get all Alfred Hitchcocky.

Yep, cops have to be prepared to deal with all sorts of ridiculousness or prepare to be blamed when they do the unthinkable: protect public safety.

In a shocking and utterly ludicrous scene, sheriff’s deputies in Muskingum County fatally shot nearly 50 lions, tigers and bears and, oh my, a wolf, all released Tuesday from a private property near Zanesville.

And we thought the black leopard roaming Harrison Twp. was a big deal.

Muskingum County Animal Farm owner Terry Thompson apparently freed the animals before killing himself.

The public outrage afterwards ran rampant.

“Why oh, why did these mean old police men kill these defenseless animals?” people asked.

One disgusted Dayton Daily News Facebook fan exclaimed: “Unless an animal was actively attacking a human, there is no need to shoot on sight. They could have imposed a curfew and waited until morning.”

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz answered that question pretty easily during a press conference: “We could not have animals running loose in this county.”

He pointed out that some of these apparently “reasonable curfew-respecting animals” were shot at close range as they threatened officers.

It’s dark. It’s raining. There’s a massive critter running wild. You’ve got a gun. Whatcha gonna do?

Call me if you can convince a black bear with freedom on his tongue to turn himself in peacefully.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium associate veterinarian Gwen Myers, said it is hard enough to tranquilize animals even under the best situations, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

I may be able to coax my kitty cats Satchmo and Ava into a pet carrier with a can of tuna, but I am betting a confused Tiger isn’t going to fall for that trick.

Heck, the Harrison Twp. black leopard seems too smart for the “old tuna in the cage.’

The outrage should not be directed toward cops.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s godfather Jack Hanna said cops had to do what they had to do even though that thing was horrible.

The complaint should be with the State of Ohio which allows places like Thompson’s farm to exist.

These places should be better monitored and restricted.

Earlier this year, then-Gov. Ted Strickland approved ownership restrictions and banned new private ownership of big cats, bears, primates, alligators, crocodiles, large constricting snakes and venomous snakes.

The ban expired in April. Gov. John Kasich said the issue needs review.

If the ban had been extended, the Humane Society said Thompson would have been barred from owning his exotic animals because of his record. Thompson was convicted in 2005 of cruelty to animals and related charges. A work group represented by diverse stakeholder organizations, including the Humane Society, are considering how to regulate dangerous wild animals in the state, Ohio Natural Resource spokesman Jason Fallon said Wednesday.

The state is currently accepting public comment online at and expected to make a presentation on the matter in about 30 days, Fallon said.

Ohio had some of the nation’s weakest restrictions on exotic pets and was among the states with the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by these creatures, according to a 2010 Associated Press review.

If something is not done, the lions, tigers, bears and people are going to continue to get hurt.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2384 or

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