Ohio Residents: Take Action After Exotic Animal Massacre

Posted by Stephan Otto, ALDF's Director of Legislative Affairs on October 19, 2011

Dozens of exotic animals escaped from an Ohio farm
on Tuesday prompting a hunt which resulted in the death of almost 50
animals. Sherriff’s deputies shot at least 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions,
six black bears, one baboon, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions and
two wolves. Their owner, Terry Thompson, appeared to have freed the
animals and then taken his own life. The horrific incident has brought
attention to the serious need for a ban on private ownership of exotic
animals in Ohio.

What Ohio residents can do:

Contact your state and local elected officials and demand that they enact laws to:

  1. Prohibit new ownership of exotic and wild animals as pets.
  2. Protect currently-owned exotic and wild animals by giving officials the authority to inspect and regulate these animals and the conditions in which they live.
  3. Prohibit all sales and transfers of existing exotic and wild animals.

Last January, former Ohio governor Ted Strickland signed an executive
order that prohibited keeping certain types of wild animals as pets.
However, current governor John Kasich let that order expire, in part,
because the Ohio Department of Natural Resources interpreted state law
to give them only the authority to regulate species that are native to
the state, thereby excluding most exotic animals. Prior to the recent
release and subsequent slaughter of dozens of exotic animals in
Muskingum County, a state task force had been convened to study the
regulation of all exotic animals in the state. Once finished, their
recommendations are to be submitted to the Ohio General Assembly for
consideration. Dayton, Cincinnati and Cleveland all currently prohibit
ownership of wild or exotic animals.

24 thoughts on “Ohio Residents: Take Action After Exotic Animal Massacre

  1. Rebecca says:

    Action should be taken again Matthew Lutz and his bunch that gunned down innocent victims of a crime scene in cold blood.

  2. Alan Howard says:

    Good thing that alligator found in a pond near Portland Oregon wasn’t in Zanesville, PA. Those trigger-happy cops in Zanesville would have shot the poor alligator, too, for no reason. Haven’t the Zaneville cops ever heard of tranquilizer darts that are made for such situations?

  3. Colleen Olson says:

    How sad, you can count on me to write and/or make a phone call. Our species is truly the most vicious and violent on the planet…

  4. Ann says:

    This was definitely a tragic event. The policemen should have never been in this situation where the media makes them look like they took the lives of these animals for no reason. The problem is that our government allows these people to keep exotic animals and for the rest of us to pray they keep them locked up. If any of these animals would have killed an innocent person or child, I bet the media would have attacked the policemen for failing to handle the situation quick enough. I personally don’t care to see all the celebrities who use situations like this to get more media attention.

  5. Marcia says:

    The abuse and neglect of these animals began years before the gunfire and the mass grave. Officials were called multiple times to the property because of complaints, and they knew Mr. Thompson had a criminal record, yet nothing was done–not by law authorities, not by any humane society, not by the USDA. The abuse and neglect extended far beyond one man’s final criminal act.



  7. hanna says:

    They could have tranqualized those animals. Especially the ones that were on the property doing nothing. I can see about the bear that tried to attac that cop. but the other ones thats just wrong!!!!!!!

  8. Wayde Johnson says:

    Many of those animals were endangered species. Ohio law allowed Thompson to keep them.

    The police and Matthew Lutz were fully aware that the animals were on the property. The shooting spree appears to be a deliberate action without regard for those endangered animals.

    Someone should be investigating this incident to determine why only six animals were saved. The Zanesville area knew that these animals had escaped previously. It was poor planning on the officers part not to have a plan for such a situation.

    I wonder how these same officers intend to deal with other incidents and situations. It appears that the officers and Lutz in particular are in denial about its own citizens.

    Ohio law should have mandates that dictate what officers can and should do if an animal escapes or is loose. At the very least, there should have been videos to document that these animals were not shot merely because they were out of their cages.

    The lion looked liked he was sleeping peacefully when he was shot.

  9. mark says:

    Terry Thompson released his animals and knew–or should have known–that they would be have to be killed by local police. What real choice did they have?
    It’s unfortunate that officers could not tranquilize the animals, but there first obligation was to protect the lives of county residents. Can you imagine a police chief telling reporters that he saved all the animals but had to let a few people die in the process?
    If you need a bad guy in this situation, Terry Thompson is your man!

  10. Kari Whitaker says:

    While the horrible events that caused the loss of these beautiful, and in many cases, endangered animals cannot be undone, what we can do is learn from this so it’s not repeated. These are WILD animals and ownership of these animals should be banned. The general layman does not (99.9% of the time) have the money, space nor do they have education (veterinarian and animal husbandry education) to keep these animals properly. Even if they do, these animals do not belong in this type of captivity. Simply, they are not pets. Change the laws throughout the United States and ban the ownership/breeding/sale/transport of exotic animals…pretty simple. Those that currently own and house these animals should be inspected on a regular basis (every 6 months, at least) and be able to provide documentation to prove that they are being vetted and cared for appropriately. If not, their permits should be pulled and the animals removed.

  11. It’s a terrible waste of those beautiful animals,they should have tranquillized them and placed them somewhere.I know Calif.has a cat refuge habitat and if checked there probably is more around this great country of our’s.But what is done is done,the bad thing is these poor animals paid with their lives for what their owner did,to bad he killed himself,he should have been alive to see what became of these exotic animals,the price they had to pay.

  12. Eva says:

    It is totally understandable to save human lives, but if humans are incarcerating innocent animals, eating their flesh and shooting them to save their own hides … I would think the beautiful endangered species should take precedence. I’m disgusted, sorry I had to write something like this.

  13. Nel says:

    It strongly upsets me that almost all of these animals were shot and killed. I understand that the safety of the people is vital but, I wish the animals would have been taken down a different way. They should have tranquilized them instead. I mean, we’re talking about endangered species here… It doesn’t make sense to me that they had to be killed.

  14. Dr. Lori Ugolik says:

    Sickening. They could not have just tranquilized them and moved them to a temporary sanctuary? Even more frightening is knowing there are more endangered species in private homes and in the illegal exotic pet trade, than there are in the wild. Pitiful! What is wrong with people?

  15. Leila says:

    The people in charge of these laws and the enforcement of such only work from 8-4:30, assign a case number and after they don’t give a damn. I am sure prior to this horrible incident, someone, or some agency knew, but most likely blamed another person/agency for dragging their feet and not doing anything. That is what will happen with this investigation unless people outside of the “SYSTEM” do something to prevent this in the future. The “SYSTEM” does the same for people that cannot stand up for themselves or does not have someone to advocate for them 24/7, just as in the case of these animals. 8-4:30 or 9-5, with breaks, lets not forget they all have to get a lunch break, vacation, sicktime, all the other amenities that go with the job, no work on weekends, then go home and forget about it. Just another case number that needs to be resolved…wake up people, does this come as a surprise to you? Very sad!

  16. adam says:

    The police and Sheriff Lutz should be praised for the swift action they took controlling the situation in Zanesville Ohio. The facts were that these wild animals could not be tranquilized and the best action to secure the area and the public was to take lethal measures. Every animal expert in the area have repeatedly said that the public safety was priority number one. They also said that successfully tranquilizing these animals was not an option. The authorities were not trigger happy and they did what was best for public safety. These animals were scared/stressed and were charging police upon arrival. You must remember that the police did not have proper training or equipment to tranquilize and contain these large wild animals. It was dark and the longer these animals were able to run free the more of a public threat they were. I love animals, I grew up on a horse farm and my father is a Vet. I have a level of respect for animals that most don’t but I quickly realized that the public safety is more important. Before you ignorantly bash the police and Sheriff Lutz for doing their job please realize the facts.

  17. Joyce says:

    As new information is released (or leaked) about the tragedy in Zanesville, the more Ohio law enforcement looks incompetent. During the live coverage, Jack Hanna looked like he was holding his tongue, now we are learning why – this happened in his own backyard, so to speak. Now, we are learning that the officers had NO tranquilizers on-hand, and apparently no effort was made to aquire any after the decision to shoot to kill was made. The majority of the animals were killed in daylight; the Columbus Zoo is 1 1/2 hours away from Zanesville – why did they not reach out to the people who are trained to handle these situations before it became the tragedy it is? I’m no investigator, but there is a stench in the air…they couldn’t put up a perimeter of officers around the compound until the professionals arrived instead of this knee-jerk reaction?
    To make matters worse, these news entities repeatedly aired footage of the slain wildlife laying in the muddy pasture, being drug around like felled trees behind tractors – even in death, these poor, precious creatures were treated like storm debris! WHAT IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE!!!!!????? It will all come out eventually.
    I’m from Ohio and I am heartbroken…

  18. B says:


    That is what the officers in Zanesville are because they were unprepared. To claim that they had to shoot and kill the endangered species (which had been living on the premises for more than 14 years) shows the extent to which the police were not prepared.

    If a community has a jail, prison or allows exotic animals, or even has a militia group, then it should prepare itself in the event that an issue arises.

    Zanesville’s Lutz was not prepared — even though he was fully aware that Ohio law allowed these animals to be kept by its citizens and he was fully aware that some of its residents had such animals.

    To say that these animals ALL had to be killed on a 73 acre farm means that Lutz was not prepared.

    Lutz should have started preparations 14 years prior when he became aware that the citizens of Zanesville kept exotic animals. Lutz should have had preparations when he knew Ohio law allowed these exotic animals.

    To now claim that these animals might have harmed others is Lutz’ way of justifying his disdain for Thompson and those who keep these animals. If Lutz does not like the law, then he should campaign to change it rather than single-handedly killing innocent animals.

  19. Janice Zacherl says:

    I agree with Adam. I too am heartsick at the murder of those animals but I cannot see any other action available to law enforcement. When we as humans fail to take responsibility for our actions, the innocents (children and animals) suffer and die. Some people can not be trusted to take responsibility for their actions – that’s why we need laws and enforcement to protect communities. What a sad ending.

  20. b says:

    Lutz did not protect currently-owned exotic and wild animals by giving officials the authority to inspect and regulate these animals and the conditions in which they live. Lutz said the department had been aware of the preserve for a number of years and has handled numerous complaints, brought in professionals to make sure the farm was safe and checked to make sure Thompson had legal permits.

    Lutz said the department has had about 35 calls since 2005 that were all checked out, “from animals running at large to being not treated properly.”

    Lutz claimed that “This has been a huge problem for us for a lot of years.” So, apparently, this date was the opportunity he had to take care of it.

    Lutz was fully aware that these animals lived on the property as he had inspected it numerous times — over 35 in fact.

    Neighbor Danielle White, whose father’s property abuts the animal preserve, said she didn’t see loose animals on the date that Lutz shot and killed these endangered species.

    Bill Cooper, who lives on Whites Road, said he was concerned for his cattle and calves on his farm when he first heard about the animals being loose. However, Cooper said he didn’t see any animals out, but he and his wife heard several “pops.”

    Lutz shot and killed those endangered species because Lutz did not like having to deal with the citizens of Zanesville. If there was video on the cop cars, it would show that Lutz acted without cause.

  21. Candida MacDonald says:

    This indeed was a terrible and AVOIDABLE tragedy. The law enforcement officers were bound to do what they did to keep the public safe, as horrific as it was. Can you imagine how they felt? I love animals – ALL animals, particularly big cats and so this tore me up. I live in Ohio and when Gov. Kasich allowed Ted Strickland’s previous order to expire, I sent a letter admonishing him for doing so. In my letter I detailed what could happen if a ban on owning exotics by the general public was not enacted. In the meantime, look at what has happened in Ohio! We had a 24 year old mauled to death by a bear in Sam Mazzola’s care. This guy had a LONG and checkered history with the law regarding his exotics. Now this among other incidents. As you can imagine, I sent yet another communication to Gov. Kasich. These tragedies and others not known of sit squarely on his shoulders. NOW he decideds to do something, but that something is a useless piece of legislation with no teeth to it and full of holes. Way to go Ohio!

  22. joi says:

    First,In response to Lelia. I work for a law enforcement agency and most people in my office work way past 4:00 and work several weekends a year (I usually work at least two. The situation with exotic animals makes no sense and there is def a problem with a lack of empathy in our society in general. There are many reasons why but it simply isn’t true that people working at government agencies just sit around until 4 and then forget about their cases (I’m sure there are some but that is true at any job in any city). I can barely sleep at times because I can’t stop thinking about a case. Although, there is absolutely no reason to turn a blind eye to idiots buying, exploiting, abusing, and owning exotic animals it isn’t due to people who work in public agencies simply not caring or taking vacations. Most people i work with are working around 50 hrs weeks, coming in on weekends and I personally haven’t taken more than 3 days in a row for vacation in over 2 yrs. We’re understaffed, underfunded, handling a tremendous caseload and are more frustrated than anybody when stuff like this happens.You simply don’t have the facts on what it means to work for a law enforcement agency and if you think too many vacations and lunch breaks are the issue, this isn’t going to get us far in finding a solution.

    The main point is that it is ridiculous and seems unreal that people are allowed to own exotic animals; almost as if I would have to be in a sci-fi novel for this to make sense. There are so many things wrong with this scenario both for the animals and people in the community and everyone needs to do something; too many people are relying on a “someone” to do it.

  23. Tom says:

    It certainly was a sad situation. Although I am not sure why someone would want to own a tiger, I am also not in favor of once again making a knee jerk reaction to entirely ban something. We seem to do this far to often. A minimal amount of regulation would have easily prevented the entire situation. If my understanding is correct, the owner was a convicted felon and mentally unstable. Either or both could have prevented him obtaining a permit, if one were required.

    The other way to have avoided this was denied last January when two experienced exotic animal moving crews were on site and ready to move the animals to a secure location, however, these crews were turned away by those same officials that said that they had no alternative but to shoot the animals.

    Just a statement of fact, these animals did not escape, they were released, and many were killed in front of their cages waiting to be let back in.

    How Sad.

  24. erika says:

    You all don’t want all exotics banned do you? I own sugar gliders and I know quite a few other sugar glider owners in Ohio. They are considered exotic..

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