An unusual threat from a nearby zoo alerted residents in Zanesville, Ohio, as search for dozens of exotic animals escaped from a private preserve continued. The animals was unleashed by their owner before he allegedly committed suicide.
At least 30 of the 48 animals owned by Terry Thompson, 62, were set loose from Muskingum Country Animal Farm, posing a significant threat on people in the zoo's vicinity. Police spent Tuesday night hunting down the escaped animals, and motorists were stopped by signs that read, Caution, Exotic Animals. Although many animals have been caught, by Wednesday morning there was still a search for a grizzly bear, mountain lion and a monkey. As a result, schools were shut down at least in 4 districts in Zanesville, Ohio.
Officials said the animals escaping from the farm created a volatile situation, especially as it approached night time, forcing a shoot-to-kill order to be put into place. We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog, said county sheriff Matt Lutz. These are 300-pound Bengal tigers that we have had to put down. When we got here, obviously, public safety was my number one concern. We could not have animals running loose in this county.
There have been no comments about how the animals escaped, only that it is suspected Thompson opened the cages. Jack Hanna, the former director of Columbus Zoo, told reporters that the sheriff did the right thing by shooting the animals, warning that tranquillizing animals in the dark could be extremely dangerous. According to Hanna, animals get very excited in the dark and could go and hide, which would pose a great threat on police officers.
It's like Noah's ark, like, wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio, said Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo. 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.
Thompson's neighbor, Sam Kopchak told CNN that he saw the lions roaming free on Tuesday evening. It was like a warzone, Kopchak said, which was when he was prompted to call the police. According to Kopchak, Thompson was an aloof man who loved animals.
Thompson had come under fire a year ago when he was arrested for possession of illegal firearms. His farm was raided in 2008, AFP reported, and after officials found fully automatic firearms, and three short-barreled firearms without serial numbers, he was made to serve a year in federal prison.
The Muskingum Country Animal Farm in Zanesville had lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, giraffes, camels and bears all of which Lutz described as very big and aggressive.