In addition to having among the weakest restrictions on the ownership of exotic animals in the nation, Ohio also has the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by exotic animals. Yet lawmakers seem unwilling to take steps to strengthen the laws, in order to protect their constituents, not to mention the animals.
Local officials appear to have been powerless to prevent the disaster in Zanesville last week, which left one man dead and dozens of animals roaming the surrounding area. Placing human lives before animal lives, police were unfortunately forced to kill nearly all the animals.
"It's been a bad situation for a long time," said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said of Terry Thompson's wild animal "farm."
Thompson was found dead last Tuesday inside his exotic animal preserve, after committing suicide. Many of his animals' cages were opened and everything from bears, wolves and tigers to giraffes and camels escaped.
Thompson had been warned no less than 30 times in the past year to get his animals under control, and was arrested in 2005 for cruelty and torture of cattle and bison on his property, according to reports. He recently was released from prison after serving one year on federal weapons charges.
It defies logic that local law enforcement was not able to shut down this man's operation and find proper facilities for the animals. Had they done so, police officers would not have been out in the darkness killing the animals, including some endangered species.
Ohio lawmakers have missed their chance to protect thousands of residents near Thompson's property. But it is their duty to toughen restrictions on such operations, and to give local law enforcement officers every tool necessary to ensure something like this never happens again.