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Animal welfare group gives Ohio low score in dealing with wildlife

October 19, 2011 |  1:10 pm

  Animals

Even as officials on Wednesday continued their roundup of wild animals released from an Ohio preserve, animal welfare activists said that the Buckeye State has long ranked near the bottom among states dealing with dangerous wild animals.

The Humane Society of the United States put Ohio in the lowest level, along with Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina and Oklahoma, in the agency’s 2009 report on how dangerous animals are treated. The report was done in the wake of a Connecticut incident in which a pet chimpanzee mauled a woman.

"There are few restrictions on keeping dangerous non-native wild animals as pets in the five states named. Consequently, these states have been home to escapes and attacks or have become havens for exotic animal breeders, dealers and menageries," the report said.

PHOTOS: Exotic animals on the loose

"The average pet owner cannot provide the sophisticated care exotic animals need in captivity,"Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States, said in the report. “Ultimately, private animal care organizations are inundated with long-term care responsibilities after owners relinquish dangerous animals as pets."

The humane society tracked a series of problems starting in 2003 when an Ohio man was killed by his poisonous pet snake. Other incidents included snake and monkey bites, bear escapes, a bear attack and the destruction of tiger cubs in a fire.

"Ohio's Fatal Attractions," a report from the humane society released earlier this year, focused on facilities within that state specifically.

But topping all of those incidents was the one reported Tuesday at the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio, in which dozens of animals were released and the owner was found dead.

The preserve has been a long-standing problem, Sheriff Matt Lutz said at a news conference Wednesday.

The facility, owned by Terry Thompson -- who apparently killed himself after releasing his animals --  was home to more than 50 creatures, including Bengal tigers, lions, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and grizzly bears.

"We've gotten about 35 calls since '04, '05, with complaints the animals were running at large and not being treated properly," Lutz told reporters. "We've handled numerous complaints here; we've done numerous inspections here. So this has been a huge problem for us for a number of years."

In the wake of the incident Tuesday, authorities launched a hunt to capture or kill the animals that had been released.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a monkey and a gray wolf seemed to be the only creatures remaining unaccounted for, officials said. Forty-eight were killed: 18 tigers, nine lions, eight lionesses, six black bears, three mountain lions, two grizzly bears, a baboon and a wolf.

Three leopards, two monkeys and another animal were captured and taken to a local zoo.

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-- Geraldine Baum in New York and Michael Muskal in Los Angeles

Photo: A tractor carries a carcass for burial from the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Zanesville, Ohio. Authorities said a game-preserve owner apparently freed dozens of wild creatures then killed himself. Credit: Tony Dejak / Associated Press

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