Ohio zoo fends off widow; exotic animals to be quarantined
A confrontation over six exotic animals that survived last week's emergency hunt in Ohio was averted Thursday when the state Department of Agriculture ordered that the creatures be quarantined indefinitely.
The order prevents the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium from turning the animals over to Marian Thompson, the widow of Terry Thompson and now the owner of the animals. Terry Thompson had released a total of 55 animals, including tigers and bears, from their cages on his farm in Zanesville, Ohio, before killing himself.
Officials hunted the animals and eventually killed 49. The six survivors -- three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear -- were turned over to the zoo for safekeeping.
A lawyer representing Thompson had contacted the zoo by fax to say the widow wanted to claim the animals, zoo officials said Thursday. The zoo said it had no legal standing to keep the animals, but it appealed to state agencies to intervene.
In a statement, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said it had ordered the animals held because “of the possibility that the animals could be infected with disease as a result of the conditions in which they were reportedly held.”
The agency said the order was in effect indefinitely and “prohibits the Columbus Zoo from moving or releasing the animals to their owner until they are determined to no longer be a potential disease threat.”
Thompson can appeal the order and is entitled to a hearing within 30 days, the agency said.
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: Supporters of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gather outside the Ohio Statehouse to push for a ban on exotic animal ownership on Wednesday. The gathering was spurred by the shooting by authorities of 49 animals released by a farm owner last week before he committed suicide. Credit: Kantele Franko / Associated Press