Owner Freed Wild Animals Before Suicide

56 escaped and 48 were killed; wolf and monkey still at large

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 19, 2011 12:41 PM CDT | Updated Oct 19, 2011 2:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – The wild animals on the loose in Ohio had a hand with freeing themselves. Terry Thompson, 62, owner of the 46-acre animal farm, deliberately released 56 animals from their cages last night before killing himself, police say. More developments:

  • Only a monkey (with herpes) and a wolf remain at large somewhere around Zanesville, Ohio, reports the Columbus Dispatch.
  • Authorities killed 48 of the animals, reports the AP. "Public safety was my No. 1 concern," says the local sheriff. "I gave the order that if the animals looked like they were going to get out, they were going down."
  • Among the animals that escaped were 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, and eight bears.

  • As for Thompson, the sheriff says his death was caused by a gunshot wound, and that animals "bothered" his body.
  • Thompson apparently also sliced the cages' wire, which the Dispatch says would allow the animals to flee once again, should they be returned to their cages.
  • "It's like Noah's ark, like, wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio," says former Columbus Zoo chief Jack Hanna. "Noah's ark filled with tigers and lions and all leopards and a few monkeys and whatever, and it crashes here and all of a sudden they're out there." (Hanna defended the decision to kill the animals and called for tougher restrictions on such animal farms.)
  • Thompson had been released from prison only three weeks ago after serving a one-year term for firearms violations. Neighbors had long complained about him being lax with security.

A sign warning motorists that exotic animals are on the loose rests on I-70 Wednesday near Zanesville, Ohio.
A sign warning motorists that exotic animals are on the loose rests on I-70 Wednesday near Zanesville, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
A dead lion by the fence on Terry Thompson's farm near Zanesville, Ohio.
A dead lion by the fence on Terry Thompson's farm near Zanesville, Ohio.   (AP Photo/Heather Ellers and Dustin Burton)
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