The remaining five animals to be returned to the care of Marian Thompson. - Photo: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Fifty-six. That's how many exotic animals Terry Thompson of Zanesville, Ohio set free last October from his home, just before he committed suicide.
Today, only five of the animals from Terry's menagerie survive: a spotted leopard, a black leopard, a brown bear and two Celebes macaques (primates). Today, those five will return to the care of Marian Thompson, Terry's widow, to the same farm where 48 of the creatures were massacred by zealous Muskingum County deputy sheriffs in an attempt to protect public safety. They'll be transferred from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium back into what was once their "home."
The state ruled on Monday to lift the state-issued quarantine order that mandated the survivors be housed at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium after the October tragedy, based on the suspicion that the animals could house infectious diseases and were residing in unsanitary conditions.
Those slaughtered included rare Bengal tigers, mountain lions and wolves.
A vet has since cleared the remaining five animals for any infectious diseases. The Thompsons reportedly kept the dozens of exotic animals as "pets." At the time of his death, officials found Terry owed nearly $70,000 in unpaid taxes to the IRS and Muskingum County and other legal maladies, including animal abuse charges and prison time. Since October, Marian has allegedly made improvements to the living conditions, including cleaning the cages and adding a perimeter fence around the enclosures.
There's no language in Ohio law that allows state officials to check on the welfare of the animals or monitor living conditions. In fact, the Thompson's ownership of the dozens of exotic animals was, and still is, completely legal — a gaping legislative hole that, since October, has caused uproar among concerned neighbors and animal welfare activists from across the country.
The Ohio state Senate recently passed a bill that would ban the private ownership of lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and other exotic animals, but would allow current owners to obtain a permit documenting legal ownership, pending strict considerations, by 2014. The bill is now in the House pending review.