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Police shoot dozens of lions and tigers in Ohio

Dozens of wild animals were shot by Ohio police after their owner released them before taking his own life.

In a Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011 photo, a dead lion lies by the fence on Terry Thompson's farm near Zanesville, Ohio.
In a Tuesday Oct. 18, 2011 photo, a dead lion lies by the fence on Terry Thompson's farm near Zanesville, Ohio.
Image: Dustin Burton,Heather Ellers/AP/Press Association Images

AMID EXPRESSIONS OF horror and revulsion at the killing of dozens of wild animals in Ohio — and photographs of their bloody carcasses — animal rights advocates agreed there was little local authorities could have done to save the dangerous creatures once they began roaming the countryside after their owner released them before taking his own life.

Sheriff’s deputies shot 48 animals — including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions — after Terry Thompson, owner of the private Muskingum County Animal Farm near Zanesville, threw their cages open Tuesday before taking his own life.

“What a tragedy,” said veterinarian Barb Wolfe, of The Wilds animal preserve sponsored by the Columbus Zoo. “We knew that … there were so many dangerous animals at this place that eventually something bad would happen, but I don’t think anybody really knew it would be this bad.”

As the hunt winded down yesterday, a photo showing the remains of tigers, bears and lions lined up and scattered in an open field went viral provoking visceral reactions among viewers, some of whom expressed their anger and sadness on social networking sites.

Some local townspeople also were saddened by the deaths. At a nearby Moose Lodge, Bill Weiser said: “It’s breaking my heart, them shooting those animals.”

Authorities said the slain animals would be buried on Thompson’s farm.

Will Travers, chief executive of the California-based Born Free USA animal welfare and wildlife conservation organisation, said police had no choice but to take the action they did.

“It’s a tragedy for these particular animals, for no fault of their own they’ve been shot, and I can see how difficult that decision was for the police,” he said.

The animals destroyed also included six black bears, two grizzlies, a baboon, a wolf and three mountain lions. Six — three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys — were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo.

A wolf was later found dead, leaving a monkey as the only animal possibly still unaccounted for in the mostly rural community of farms, widely spaced homes and wooded areas about 55 miles east of Columbus.

While the sheriff’s office said early Thursday that the search for the monkey was still active, Sheriff Matt Lutz said the animal may no longer be a concern. “He was in an area where one of the cats actually killed one of the monkeys, and we feel he could have been eaten by one of the cats,” Lutz told WCMH-TV.

Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness.

“These animals were on the move, they were showing aggressive behavior,” Lutz said at a news conference. “Once the nightfall hit, our biggest concern was having these animals roaming.”

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Associated Press

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