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Ohio Exotic Animals Not Returned To Owner's Widow, Ordered To Be Quarantined

//ohio zoo wild animals terry thompson

Oct. 27 2011, Published 5:00 a.m. ET

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By Staff

Only six exotic animals survived the massacre in Ohio last week after sheriff deputies gunned down 49 creatures that were released by their owner before he killed himself, and now has learned that his estranged wife is fighting to get them back.

As previously reported, on October 18 Terry Thompson of Zanesville opened the cages and gates of the animals -- including bears, cheetahs, wolves, lions, camels, giraffes and a white Siberian tiger -- prior to giving himself a fatal, self-inflicted gun shot wound.

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The only animals to escape the mass killings were three jaguars, a Grizzly bear and two Macaques (primates), which had been taken to nearby Columbus Zoo after the incident, are now in the midst of a bitter custody battle as Marian Thompson tried to retrieve them at 2 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, much to the disapproval of both zoo officials and the Zanesville mayor.

"The Ohio Agriculture Department  has issued an order to quarantine them and they will stay at the zoo for now. Marian has been and gone," spokesperson for the zoo, Patty Peters told

The standoff may well be temporary, however, as under current state law the zoo has no legal right to stop her from taking them in the long-run.

The Columbus Zoo has been working with the governor’s task force to draft a framework for permanent legislation to enact stronger, enforceable Ohio laws restricting private ownership of exotic animals, explained Peters.

The quarantine order is indefinite, but Thompson is entitled to a hearing within 30 days if she wants to appeal the order, reported the Zanesville Times Recorder.

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Zanesville mayor Howard Zwelling told on Thursday that he didn't think it should be so easy for Marian to simply walk away with the wild creatures.

"Under state law she has a right to those animals, the zoo wants to keep them for her but under current law they have to give them back," he told in an exclusive interview.

"I think it should be much more difficult to own exotic animals. It only costs $50 to get a permit now, it should cost at least $5,000 to own one."

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Having moved out of the property following her recent split from Terry, Marian was living at a different location when her husband committed suicide and Mayor Zwelling said she'll be hoping to take her "babies" to her new home.

"I don’t think they are going to go to the same place, I think they are going to a different farm," he told

"The cages at Thompson's property were destroyed when he let them out, he cut open the backs and opened the doors so no one could capture them and put them back in," he revealed.

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Harry Peachy, Curator of Mainland Asia at the zoo, had previously revealed to how he thought the animals were better off in their care.

"Our opinion at the zoo is that it wouldn’t be the right thing for her to get them back, but in Ohio right now it wouldn’t be a violation of law and a court could rule that they are returned," he told

"I am sure Sheriff Matt Lutz wouldn’t agree with it and will voice his opinion that he thinks it could be dangerous to the public."

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Lutz is not saying definitively whether they agree with Marian taking the animals, but according to the Zanesville Times Recorder, extreme safety precautions will be made if she does.

"If she wants to bring them back here, to this farm, then we're working on what we're allowed legally to do to make sure that everything is safe and appropriate," Lutz said.

Federal documents recently revealed that avid gun collector Terry Thompson had traded weapons for a monkey, a leopard and a tiger cub.

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Thompson built his collection of exotic animals by swapping guns, sheltering animals no longer wanted by their owners and buying others at auctions, reported the Associate Press.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," former judge Zwelling told about the revelation. "He was into guns and animals. That’s what he went to prison for."


Ohio Governor Calls For Tighter Laws Against Exotic Animals After Massacre



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