Zanesville Mayor On KDKA: Exotic Zoo Owner ‘Turned Them Loose, Shot Himself’

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – The owner of an Ohio zoo filled with lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and more was found dead on Tuesday.

According to Zanesville Mayor Howard Zwelling, the owner is believed to have taken his own life. However, before he died, he let all the animals loose.

“I did get a call from my safety director and he told me that the owner had turned them loose and had shot himself,” Mayor Zwelling said.

The incident set off a frantic search for over 40 dangerous animals outside of Zanesville. As of 10 a.m. Wednesday officials believed that only three animals — a monkey, grizzly bear and a mountain lion — remained unaccounted for.

KDKA-AM’s Larry and John talked to Mayor Zwelling, who says he’s worried about public safety and that the sheriff is shooting the animals.

“It’s my understanding that the county sheriff and deputies are out. The last I heard last night, they had killed over 25 of these wild animals and there were 48 loose,” Mayor Zwelling said.

Some people are concerned that the animals are being killed instead of tranquilized, including the mayor.

“It bothers me a little bit also. I was not consulted about this. It happened outside the city and so the sheriff has taken charge of this whole thing. I have not talked to the sheriff,” Mayor Zwelling said.

City officials are telling residents to stay inside and several schools in the area are closed.

Listen to the full interview here:

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  • Samantha Bartosiewicz-Sharp

    This is horrible these animals should not be shot..they did not ask to be set loose..we do not shoot criminals when they break loose..some of these animals are endangered..such a fine example we are setting for our youth.

    • Tara

      First of all this farm is NOT A ZOO I REPEAT NOT A ZOO, it is a farm that housed these Mature Aggressive Animals, Jack Hannah (Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo)Human life would be preserved first and foremost before Animal Life, he also stated that it is impossible to track and tranq an animal at night which was when this occurred doing this would have caused a dangerous situation for human life… At this time Neither the local news or the sheriff are speculating as to the cause of Death of Mr. Johnson, so you should not either the 46 acre farm is still a crime scene. If you want to know the facts in this case please visit a local news affiliate in central Ohio

      • Keats

        Fox News reported many of these animals were shot STANDING IN FRONT OF THEIR CAGES. This was a just a sick slaughter by some trigger happy Sheriff’s. Gives them a rush of testosterone.

      • Brad Skidmore

        Yup… All you have to know is the way the cop pronounced the word wolves… “woofs”

      • zombierocket


      • Brad

        Yep, I’m deathly afraid of a giraffe. Those things have been known to massacre thousands and destroy buildings with one lick of their tongue.

    • Tom

      Better to shoot them than let them eat someone’s kid. How is a sheriff’s dept supposed to wrangle 48 wild predators? They aren’t trained for that and probably no one within under an airplane flight’s time is. Then you have to assemble the team, plan, deploy, etc. It’s not as easy as “just tranquilize them.” You’re welcome to go out with your tranquilizer rifle and try to track them down yourself. I hate that the animals are being killed as well but we need to put this in perspective? They need to act fast before someone gets killed.

      • 31337

        I say shoot them, but don’t shoot to kill unless somebody’s life is in danger.

      • The Clintidote

        Great idea, 31337 – just make them mad at close range.

      • Michele Lloyd

        oh oh oh!!! I say tazer them… could start a new wave band: ‘Electric Kitty.’ their first song would go platnium: “.. 4000 volts, Get over it” Kasey Kasum would love it!

      • Captain Incredulous

        Tom, you are being way too rational…..LOL!! Actually, I totally agree with what you are saying, but bear in mind that the PETA folks are now posting their drivel here now. You can’t reason with those folks, and if push came to shove, they would have to admit that they value an animal’s life over that of a human. PETA folks don’t understand balance.

      • Dan Bowen

        They should’ve thrown the ball. They should’ve run the ball.
        It’s Monday morning and everyone’s an expert.

    • Sam E Moore Jr

      What would you say ..Here nice kitty, Kitty drink the milk ?
      You should be the one who has to stand 50-60 ft. away from a 600 Lb. wild beast and shoot him with a Tranquilizer .Often not working for 3-5 Minutes .
      I see your one of those 3 name lefties so that explains your off the wall PETA comment .

      • The Clintidote

        You picked up on the leftist hyphen too, huh? It’s like waving the Idiot Left flag. She’s a dope, like all leftists.

      • zombierocket


    • David Emerson Powell

      The Police are not issued with animal tranquilizer darts. With large animals of unknown temperment loose in residential areas, what else can they do?

      It is sad, but ask yourself, if they let the animal get away and it mauls someone to death, wouldn’t that be worse?

      The one responsible for the mess is the one who created the situation by bringing them all into the area and then releasing them en masse. It would be one thing if the local cops had one animal to capture or contain, but they have to deal with dozens and do so very quickly and sadly that reduces the options they have very quickly.

    • paco

      Let all the people that want the animals to be saved be the first to go round them up. I bet after a few of them start getting eaten, they just my change their minds. Or maybe it might be a way to get rid of a few whinny pansies! So tired of you people, just shut up and go back behind your keyboard and live your sheltered life or do US a favor and get out and go try to catch the little kitties and care bares for yourself.

    • Griz

      yea right….we should of asked them first if they wanted to get loose and consume the young humans. Go hug a tree

    • John Renick

      Samantha? If one of those lions decides to chomp down on your azz for a snack. you can c’mon back (if there is anything left of you) and let us know how you feel about things then, ok?

    • SayWhat

      I am sure your attitude would change if you saw an 800 pound bear running toward you.

      • Captain Incredulous

        ….cuz Griz don’t care how much money you donated to PETA or how many beach clean ups you did last year.

    • Mark

      Maybe we should shoot he criminals.

    • flashman1854

      Leopard ribeye? This is a CAT you’re talking about. Does the idea of eating cat seem pleasurable?

      A buffalo, yes; Ibex, antelope, yes, for sure. But CAT?

      • john

        Ask the people of far eastern country how cat tastes….. : )

    • flashman1854

      Oh, if only we DID shoot criminals when they tried to escape. In fact, why wait until then.

    • Vince

      I don’t think you realize just how quickly this all had to come together. Finding the tools necessary to drug animals aren’t at your local wal-mart. Specialty firearms , specialty drugs that , by the way , would very different depending on species and size of animal . Just things to consider taking into account the brevity of the situation .

    • jasperddbgghost

      Dunno what’s going on but I bet its’ a zoo over there.

      • John


    • la

      The cops are getting off shooting and killing these animals, it’s a rush for them. They only w
      ish is was people

      • Keats

        Exactly. And I am no tree hugger. The remarks on this page reflect a society that has no respect for either human life nor animal life. Most cops are just looking for a chance to discharge their guns and most are very uneducated, so thinking through an alternative to a situation does not come easy for them. Shoot first, ask questions later. The thing is, everyone knew this preserve was there. What really got me was the neighbor lady who moved in next door and then complained (this was in another affiliates story.) I mean…duh. So, since everyone KNEW it was there, the possibility of what to do in the event of a fence failure or something else drastic should have already been planned out. Not just all of a sudden it’s happy hunting season and we’ve all got a chance to go big game hunting like Teddy Roosevelt and git ourselves some trophies….

      • JATL

        Did you guys forget to wear your tinfoil hats today?

    • Deb

      And the sheriff should be expected to carry the proper tranquilizer for each missing animal, with the correct dosage, and also an appropriate cage to transport each species in? And then take them….where? Oh, and you’d better move them quickly before they wake up and injure themselves and other people.

    • Loons to the left of me

      You are all panzies. It is more difficult to “tranquilize” an animal than to humanely put it down with a rifle. It is so easy to condemn from afar while you are chewing on your Cowburger. They are just animals. Not people. Don’t you get it? Animals. Is a cow less valuable than a tiger?

      Shoot the damn things so that no one gets hurt.

    • jnsesq

      Come to think of it, shooting criminals when they get loose seems an EXCELLENT idea, Ms. Bartosiewicz-Marx.

    • jjackson

      > we do not shoot criminals when they break loose

      Yes we do!

    • zombierocket

      So Samantha Bartosiewicz-Sharp. killing HUMAN babies = good. Shooting dangerous fierce animals = bad. Hmmmm…. fine society we have here, eh?

    • Burghnerdman

      It is a terrible thing that these animals have to be “Put Down”. However, the animals in question were captive, not domesticated. Because these animals were taken care of by humans, they have little fear of humans. Therefore, they will be considerible more dangerous than their willd conterparts.
      If these animals were saved, here poses another problem. Without proper breeding records, they could not be bread with Zoo kept animals, for fear of genetic mutations, or disease. Think about it!
      I for one don’t want too happen on a Grizzly Bear, Mountain Lion, or Wolf, while walking home from work at 1:00 in the morning. Or my daughter getting killed by an animal that is dazed and confused. I feel bad that these animals have to go through this. I really wish there were other options. BUT, there is not.

      • tom

        i understand everything your saying i just dont understand why these kind of ranches are aloud to exist.

    • TOM


      • Burghnerdman

        I agree with you, Tom. They shouldn’t be aloud too have them in the first place. Since they are, however, they need to pay the State or County Govts. to enable the said agencies for situations that may happen.

  • Zoo Keeper

    Get Marty Griffin in the news truck right away…….these animals need to be saved before the police kill them all


    why don’t you tranquilize them you idiots and then give them to a zoo. what is wrong with you people? This is animal cruetly. Shame on you!!! Wild or not wild what are you thinking. Give them a chance

    • Tara

      ALL OF YOU PLEASE see local news affiliate in columbus ohio regarding what Jack Hannah has said this article does not contain any facts only sensationalism and speculation Shame on you CBS Pittsburgh…. You helping to make a bad situation even worse

      • Kat

        Wendy I TOTALY agree that this is crule but we also have to think of this as a real situation. what “theJackal” said is paritallly true but there should have been a plan that the sherrif had in case anything simalar to this ever did happen OR the owner of the farm should have had tranquilizers in his possesion for the same reasons. However i do not agree with “thejackal” for saying that the cops should be having fun shooting animals that didn’t know any better, and for the defense of “theJackal” most rednecks dont know any better than to shoot animals, drink beer, be rasist, wave their condederate flags around in the back of their pick-up, and be no use to our world. =^.^=

      • Dave

        What are you talking about? Why is this sensationalism? My son called me last night, who goes to college at a university very near this farm, and he told me almost exactly what is written on this site. This is well before any of this infomraiton broke out on national news, local news, etc. So, I’m not quite sure what you’re referring too.

      • theJackal

        You are a moron. Even if you could get somebody with a tranquilzer gun it would take the better part of a day to capture maybe 1 or 2 animals. I’m a skilled large game hunter. You would need a dozen trained people with tranquilzer rifles and the proper skill set. It would take a week to get the neccessary people togeather. Meanwhile the critters would be getting VERY hungry in the wild. The sherrif is doing the right thing and I’m sure the deputies are having a blast going on a shooting safari in their own backyards. Have fun guys.

    • crackhead bob

      anyoneknow where i can get some of those tranquilizers?

    • The Clintidote

      Give ’em a chance to end up on a barbeque grill, at most.

  • Dave

    While tranquilizing these animals makes sense, this is an emergency situation involving dangerous animals, inluding lions, tigers, cheetahs, etc. The community at large is in grave danger to the point where schools and businesses were closed. The authorities are taking action to help alleviate the immediate danger of these animals. If it were one or two animals, it would be different story, but 48 dangerous animals? They are taking whatever measures are necessary to capture all of these animals. While it’s true that it’s not the animals’ fault, you still need to error on caution and make sure they don’t hurt anyone.

    • Concerned


    • Marie

      If they haven’t caused any trouble, the small effort should be made to tranquilize them. If they are in the act or threatening to attack, then shoot to kill. Otherwise, this is just cruel. There is no “immediate danger” if they are just walking around. They need to be rounded back up, period.

      • Dave

        Do you even comprehend the enormity of this situation? There are wild animals from Africa running around in a populated community. These animals have been caged their entire lives and now are running around free. What do you think the outcome will be when they happen upon a person or get hungry? I can tell you for a fact that there is “immediate danger” for the area to close not only all of the schools but also the businesses in order to keep peoiple out of harm’s way. BTW – my son goes to college at a nearby university, and I can assure you that they are taking this seriously.

      • Brian C.

        And then, after the fact, when your child has been mauled by a grizzly bear in the dark at 11 pm in your backyard, will you be the one to stand up in front of the cameras and say, “But why didn’t the Sheriff DO anything to protect the citizens?!”

      • MsCynic

        You do realize that it is not that easy to get a clear shot into the muscle of an animal when it is threatening you and then you have several minutes until it actually DROPS! In those minutes, every one of these large predators can cover A LOT of territory and plus, they are then injured and afraid. Sorry, but in this case, I think it was the only option. The owner was the IDIOT – if he had truly loved his animals, he would have made contact with the zoo or somenthing BEFORE he shot himself and DEFINITELY would NOT have let the cages open. This really is the only end result possible.

      • PJ

        “There is no “immediate danger” if they are just walking around.”

        Ha Ha Ha. You are an idiot. Why don’t you go take a walk around the area where the Grizzly Bear is hanging out and let us know there is no danger.

  • Concerned

    Yes as a matter of fact, if a human being is caught trying to escape prison or threatening and officers life or another human being lives, they would be shot!
    These are WILD A N I M A L S!!!! You would rather have this WILD animals knaw on your babies leg than it be shot on sight? I understand that some people threat their pets as their own children, that is fine, that is not for anyone else to judge. But these animals do not know any better than to attack or be attacked, they are WILD!
    What this man did was wrong, YES, but how can you defend these carnivores?
    I can’t imagine that the police were ready or prepared for this guy to take such extreme actions. Therefore, I highly doubt that tranquilzers are an option. This situation needs to be cleared up asap. Kids can’t go to school, which probably means parents are not going to work!

  • Vicki

    We need better laws, why was this man allowed to keep all of these animals in the first place. Why was no one checking up on him, there should be better and more stringent laws regarding the keeping of wild animals in any other country but, he one in which they are born.

    • The Clintidote

      More laws. More laws. More laws. More laws.

      We have MILLIONS of laws now and for some reason they didn’t prevent this, did they?

      You sound like Ofailure: “More laws!”

  • Pro Testor

    Occupy Zanesville has taken a new meaning, pack up your tents kids we need to save the animals

    • Backstraps4Me

      Don’t forget your pork chop necklace, you might need a snack.

  • Michael

    You people are morons. What local law enforcement has enough tranquilizers on hand for 48 large wild animals? Law enforcement is doing the reasonable thing to serve and protect the people. This is exactly what we pay them for. You are th every same people who would cry a river if your son/ daughter was eaten on the way to school: “Why didn’t they do something?” Kudos to the police for taking quick action. I hope no one gets hurt.

    • TNGirl

      I agree. I worked as an animal control officer in the past, and it would be nearly impossible for the personnel of a small (I’m assuming) county to carry out a widespread tranquilizing effort, especially at night – and on multiple species that may not all have the same response to sedative. Also shooting a dart gun is NOT the same a shooting a rifle; they do not have the same range or tragectory. I do, however, think it is a shame that the animals are being shot – but sometimes the safety of humans(however dumb they may be) takes precedence over that of animals.


    I think that the Mayor and all those concerned about the animals should volunteer to go out and capture or tranquilize these animals. I`m sure that the Sheriff would back them up…you think?

  • cjhsa

    I see he must have let all the animal rights idiots out as well.

  • Honeylmalik

    They should have not been in his possessions in the first place & I agree with one person to try & save the animals . God Bless America ! These are God’s creatures & He is watching over them too.

  • Mallen

    What a bunch of moonbats on this site.

    Like police walk around with tranquilizer darts that are measured in the exact quantity of every animal’s weight.

    Unbelievable. I can’t believe I share space on this planet with people that dumb.

    • Mark

      100% accurate.

      Would these people rather have children and other humans killed, or animals killed?

      If there’s a wolf running at a child and I’m holding a shotgun, I’m not going to run back to the truck to find a tranquilizer.

      • joe cartoon

        humans obviously, the world is overpopulated and nature exists to maintain balance. its perfectly natural. But true, god forbid if a 10 year old little girlscout sets up a lemonade stand. I am sure they will call the national guard and arrest her. People definitely have the thier priorities straight!

      • flashman1854

        Actually Mark there ARE people who would rather see people dead rather than animals.

        This is the core of the ‘animal rights’ racket.

        And make no mistake, this is part of the same group of socialists, ‘climate warming’ nuts, mobs in the street, anti-capitalist goons,thugs, drones, pawns, and dupes that make up the ‘new left’ in the world.

    • Tom

      Amen, bro.

    • theJackal

      It would take a skilled hunter a month to tranq all those critters. So you’d a dozen or so skilled large game vets to do the job. There aren’t that many in the contential US. What a bunch of moonbat morons.

  • Gonzo

    Marty Griffin and the American Idol reject are on the way for a live update on this tragedy

  • JD Still

    I hope the mayors comment was based on more than conjecture, if not, all We really know at this point is that a man is dead and his animals were turned loose.

  • john

    Lions? Are you kidding me? Dead on site. This is not a rediculous PETA game we’re playing here.

    Any one of you who says “tranquilize”: Are you the first to go sweet talk these beasts? I didn’t think so.

  • omp

    Why not make burgers out of them for the occupy party?

    • john

      lol…. they would have a stroke…. most of these are the same people who would advocate the slaughter of babies in the womb so mommy can continue to have a career to pay for the bmw and the 1.5 mil condo near the city……..

  • Mark Mywords

    You are not going to find a bigger animal lover than me. And this instance, where a sick individual decides to “release the hounds” and then take his own life, is not the norm.

    Of COURSE tranquilize when possible, but the number of deadly animals released coupled with the authorities lack of resources to manage the situation humanely, there is no other option.

    Hopefully they don’t have to kill that many animals. Humans cannot be put at risk, let’s pray they get the backup they need to save these creatures.

    This is a very bad and sad situation.

  • Mary Wright

    The rate of recidivism for animals like this is extremely high. I say shoot em before they eat your young.

  • Jim

    Kill em and grill em. I think the county should have a big cook out featuring these exotic meats. Bring in some area restaurants and see what they can do.

  • George

    Shot himself???? PETA!! Nuts!!!!!

  • George

    Shot Himself?? Yea, sure. If I was going to kill myself, the first thing I would do is release all the wild animals, then kill myself only to be eaten alive if I just happened to miss. Yea Right!! Look for PETA in this picture!!

  • GL Lee

    What a joke… next people will excoriate the Army for killing the enemy. Cops are doing what they do, shoot things. It’s their job – I would be thankful that they were out there making the streets safer for my children (before they got eaten by a lion). I hope every bleeding heart on this board is cornered by one of these animals… then they’ll be screaming to have the animal shot to save their own lives.

    What a bunch of light thinkers…

  • Sam E Moore Jr

    The simple answer is …. No wild Animals , Bears , Gators , Huge Pythons or Poisonous Snakes are allowed unless in approved
    totally safe City Zoo’s .

    Last year in India they killed a Tiger who had 57 known Kills ,

  • Zoo Keeper Turned Wild Animals Loose and Shot Himself |

    […] *Taken from CBS Pittsburgh. […]

  • john

    Why not jsut let them populate the US like all the other imported animals. cougars only get 2 or 3 a year.. what is a few lions going to do….just part of the NWO new world order. doesnt the constitution protect them once they are here… hhahhahhaha JJ for those who are ultra serious!

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