Sheriff: Animals No Longer At Large

Wolf Is Reportedly Dead

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (KDKA) – The Sheriff of Muskingum County no longer believes any animals are running at large.

He says there is a monkey still unaccounted for, but he says odds are the monkey was eaten by one of the cats.

Sheriff Matt Lutz said his deputies were called when motorists along Interstate 70 reported seeing wild animals.

“They had the road all blocked and wouldn’t let people go down through there. So, when I got home and found out what was going on, they said that a bunch of those tigers and such [were] loose out here,” Lutz said.

However, there were several other exotic animals that were set free.

“There were grizzly bears and black bears there. There were cheetahs, there were lions and there were tigers. Those are the primary things that we would be concerned with. Any kind of cat species and any kind of bear species,” Lutz said.

The sheriff ordered deputies to shoot to kill.

KDKA’s Harold Hayes reports that in all 56 animals were released. Authorities say 20 lions, 18 tigers and eight bears have been killed. Also, six animals were taken to the Columbus Zoo. A wolf was also killed.

Noted animal expert Jack Hanna supported that approach.

“People are saying, ‘Oh my gosh, why do you have to shoot it?’ I lost my dearest friend in 1973, or [1974] in Knoxville, Tenn. A veterinarian with all the media right there. Five tigers got loose. He tried to tranquilize one of them. The tiger jumped 18 feet. One leap had him on the ground, and that was it. A veterinarian lost his life,” Hanna said.

Sheriff Lutz was well aware of the park and its owner, Terry Thompson, who had prior legal troubles because of his animals.

“From being here in the past, Mr. Thompson has brought all types of animals in here. We have dealt with this type of situation for a very long time and there have been all kinds of animals here of all ages,” Lutz said.

Sheriff Lutz would not provide many details on Thompson’s death as they await autopsy reports. However, it does appear to be a suicide.

“I am prepared to release at this point that based on our preliminary investigation, that we feel that Mr. Thompson died from a self-inflicted wound. We do also feel that he had released these animals at some point,” Lutz said.

The original estimate of four dozen animals on the loose does not include a number of monkeys and apes found in their cages inside Thompson’s home. They were all alive and contained.

The latest briefing from authorities in Ohio said not only were the animals’ cages opened, but some of the pens were also cut open. That means even if the animals were put back in their pen, they could have still gotten loose.


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  • 1-2-3

    Everything is Ok, the mountain lion ate the monkey and the bear ate the mountain lion. The cops shot the bear.

  • Gwen

    What I do not understand is why we have laws in this country which allow the hoarding of wild, exotic animals. These creatures belong in the wild, not living in pens on some unbalanced man’s 40 acres of land. If 48 is indeed the correct number of animals, how was that allowed by Ohio officials? Are their wildlife protection laws that lax? Weren’t the neighbors’ numerous complaints over the years enough to prompt a serious investigation and intervention? This was a tragic situation that resulted in one man taking his own life (alleged). Thankfully, no one else was injured, maimed, or killed. But, this massacre could have been prevented if the private ownership of wild, exotic animals was not permitted. And yes, I know that some people will do what they want, legal or not. But then, a certain segment of society always does what they want, legal or not. Welcome to the lunatic fringe.

    • MsCynic

      Ohio and Texas have almost as many ‘pet’ tigers as there are in the wild. These are the 2 states with completely LAX laws regarding ownership of exotics. If this guy truly LOVED his animals, he would not have sentenced them to death by turning them loose. Idiot in every way!

  • Lisa Hildreth

    Why in the world are they KILLING them??? It’s not their fault someone kept them in captivity. Do you think if some animals escaped from the Pittsburgh Zoo they would KILL Them?????

    It’s horribly inhumane. Tranquilize them and then send them to a zoo. Killing them is barbaric and unjust.

    • MsCynic

      Seriously?? Do you know how LONG it takes for an animal to go down after being tranquilized??? Between 3 and 5 minutes, and during that time they are EXTREMELY dangerous. You have to be close enough to get a clear shot, and fast enough to follow them when they bolt (and make sure they don’t encounter another living being during that time!). It’s not practical or reasonable to tranq animals out in the public, if they had remained in their cages, maybe, but unfortunately this was the only result.

      • Mike Hunt

        Are you a vet? If not, stfu.

      • MsCynic

        Nope not a Vet, but a Vet tech. So right back at you!

    • Kelley

      The police are just not equipped to deal with that many wild animals roaming free. There only action was to shoot them as sad as that is. They couldn’t track that many to tranquilize them just MsCynic said. Maybe 1 or 2 not 48

  • Dave

    Kudos to the police who acted immediately when they discovered this situation. They are to be commended for their attentiveness to this matter. They did not hesitate and mull around wondering what action to take. Knowing the public’s safety was in jeapordy, they went out looking for the animals during the night into the morning hours. My hats off to them!

    • So right!

      Totally Agreed Dave!

  • Dervrak

    Police promised not to shoot the monkey…just spank him…

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  • Kelley

    so if you are outraged by this, use this incident to go after the polictians and governor in Ohio to outlaw wild animals unless you are considered a zoo. I have seen flyers for their exotic sales in Ohio and yes the big cats and bear are listed. Work to get the laws to get that banned.

  • Lisa

    Just for the record, I’m not upset with the police officers. Of course, if people were in eminent danger, then the killing was obvious, but did almost all need to be killed? I’m just saddened that these innocent animals had to be killed. You are correct, laws need to be in place to prevent this ever happening again.

  • Mary Richards

    This story has generated more responses than any story KDKA has ever covered……good job news people everyone pat yourselves on the back

  • Bobby

    Look at it this way:

    It’s probably more humane to kill them than having them starve to death or get run over by a car in the woods of Ohio. I’m no animal expert, but I’d assume that these animals, such as the lions and tigers, aren’t used to cold climates. Sure there are deer to eat, but how long could they possibly survive in the cold and rain? What if they ate somebody’s kid? What if they got hit on the highway and ran around injured and in pain for a few days before they died? Shooting them was the best way to protect the public and spare the animals the misery of having to live and die in a climate they’re not adapted to. Kudos to the police who were decisive and ended things before they got worse.

  • come on man

    The monkey has what? Did someone review his medical record? This is just getting crazy, There are more reporters in Zanesville than people

  • Nivek

    After living in Ohio rural areas for 4 years, I can totally see why people there support a shoot first, call animal experts later mentality. it bugs me people think this is not a tragedy and criminal matter. But these people are not known for being bright bulbs, especially these po-dunk cops wanting a reason to kill something with their AR-15’s.

  • mikevi29

    What a shame

  • dave

    Sorry mary, but 14 comments is not even close to total # of comments. I’ve seen over 200 comments on a news piece.

  • cindy Lee

    i see the police force thinks they are big time…wow we get to go kill…some wild aninals…were these animals a threat? could they have not been shot with a tranquilzer gun and taken to a zoo or somewhere did they all really hae to be killed ??or was the Barney police force sticking there chest out and making way more out of this…these animals could of been sedated and taken to a zoo..shame on them…well they had there 15 min of fame AND bragging…such a shame to these animals

    • sick by all this

      I agree. I think it was a big hunting game for them. Its hard to believe ALL the animals had to be shot. We have bear where I live and if they stray into town they are sedated and taken back to the woods where they belong. If they can sedate animals safely here why couldn’t SOME of those animals be spared.They should have called some experts who know what they are doing. I think they just didn’t want the headache of trying to place the animals. It was easier to get rid of them. Also, if they knew about this guy why wasn’t something done? Should have laws so these things don’t happen. What kind of government does Ohio have?

    • Jim

      The police are not trained to kill a large number of wild animals just as it’s getting dark. And Jack Hanna (expert from the Columbus Zoo) agreed that killing them quickly was the right thing. If you shoot an animal with a tranquilizer (which cops don’t have 100+ of them available) you need to have a near perfect hit at a somewhat close range. Guess what happens if you’re in close range of a Grizzly or mountain lion and don’t have a perfect hit??? You now have a very mad/wounded wild animal that wants to protect itself (ie, kill you). Not good. Regardless of what you think the shooters’ motivation was, the result was the best case result given the situation.

      • Jim

        Meant to say that they’re not trained to trap/capture a large number of wild animlas as it’s getting dark. Therefore, shoot was their best option.

  • Jim

    Good thing this wasn’t in Pennsylvania, otherwise the police would be given huge fines by the overzealous PA Game Commission. Hunting without a license, hunting foreign game, exceeding daily limit of large game, etc…

  • Mike Hunt

    You all have too much time on your hands to talk about this. Do you work? Are you collecting unemployment?Sad that your hobby is commenting on exotic animals roaming free in Ohio, when you don’t even live there!!

    • Lee

      You do realize the hypocrisy here, don’t you? Or are you that obtuse?

  • Mike Hunt

    too funny love it

  • sick by all this

    Apparently you must have alot of time on your hands also because you are commenting just like everybody else. Do YOU work? It is sad you would say such a thing when you are doing the samething on here. Just saying!!

  • Really??

    Wah, wah, wah I would love to see one of you whiners facing down a 300 lb Grizzly bear or a Bengal Tiger with paws bigger than a fat woman’s knees and THEN talk about tranquilizing vs killing them. Don’t you people read? The stories have been all over the internet. The moron who “loved” his animals so much, kept them in glorified dog cages!! Do any of you own pets? Do you see how they act after they have been caged up even for a trip to the vet? They are peeved, they get aggressive, they just want out. Imagine having to live in one of those cages for your whole life, neglected since he has been sited for neglect repeatedly. If you were one of those gigantic cats or bears, you would be so ticked off at anyone who came near you when you got the heck out of your cage for fear of being put back in. They were aggressive, heck yes, they were treated horribly by a hoarder without the space to keep them. The only humane thing WAS to put them down. If you are angered by this, vent your anger on the morons who allowed him to keep these wild animals as “pets”. Quit whining and be glad no was harmed…this time.

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