Thompson’s zoo made no sense to people or animals


October 22, 2011 - 12:00 AM

When the zany day wound up in Zanesville, Ohio, Tuesday night, all but one of Terry Thompson’s exotic animals was dead or back in captivity. Mr. Thompson was dead, too.
The 62-year-old ex-con killed himself after turning his wild animals loose and causing a frantic, all-day search by sheriff’s officers and other law enforcement personnel.
Thompson’s menagerie included 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, grizzly bears, cheetahs, wolves and monkeys – a total of 56 wild animals, many of which were exceedingly dangerous to people or domestic animals.
Sheriff Matt Lutz did exactly what he should have done when he armed deputies with high-powered rifles, put them in the back of pickups and told them to shoot to kill.
The lesson from this bizarre day is that private zoos stocked with predators should not be allowed. Ohio’s laws required Thompson only to keep the animals fed and caged. They didn’t require him to be a rational man – nor could such a law be written.
Zanesville surely will persuade Ohio lawmakers to make a repeat performance impossible.
It is beside the point that Thompson had just been released from federal prison, where he had served a sentence for possessing illegal firearms and owed $56,000 in back taxes. Large predatory animals should not be kept on private property. Period.
Because they are dangerous to people, pets and farm animals, animals that by nature kill to eat belong in designated wilderness areas or in zoos managed by public bodies.
Community rights should trump personal rights when public safety is at issue.

– Emerson Lynn, jr.