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Dozens of exotic animals escape from Muskingum County farm
Farm owner's body found Tuesday night, sheriff says he could have killed himself on "Today" Show

Maranda Shrewsberry
Grizzly bears, tigers, lions and wolves are among the animals that could have escaped the exotic animals farm in Muskingum County. Police have accounted for 35 of the 48 that escaped, killing about 30.
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There could still be a dozen exotic animals on the loose in and around Muskingum County. Bears, big cats and other potentially dangerous animals escaped from an animals farm there where the body of the owner was found. 

Lutz suggests residents stay inside and report any exotic animal sightings. 

On NBC's "Today" show, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said authorities are waiting for autopsy results that will determine how farm owner Terry Thompson died. When asked if Thompson killed himself, Lutz answered that anything is possible. 

Police are still combing rural Muskingum County, looking for lions, tigers, bears and other animals. From member station WOSU, Steve Brown reports.

Brown reports how police in the area are dealing with the escaped creatures.

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"Police have not said how farm owner Terry Thompson died, but they say the fences to the Muskingum County Animal farm were left unsecured and all of the animal cages were open. It’s not yet clear who or what opened those cages.

Students at at least four school districts are being kept home this morning, and police are urging people to stay inside if possible. Police say they’ve killed about 30 of the 48 animals that escaped."

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"Former Gov. Ted Strickland issued a ban Jan. 7 that allowed current exotic-animal owners to keep their animals, but barred people from bringing more into Ohio.

It also prohibited people convicted of animal cruelty from owning exotics. The owner of the loose animals near Zanesville was convicted in 2005 of cruelty.

Kasich let the emergency ban expire in April and convened a study group.

HSUS is calling on Kasich and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to "immediately issue emergency regulations restricting the sale and possession of dangerous wild animals," president Wayne Pacelle said in a news release.

"How many incidents must we catalog before the state takes action to crack down on private ownership of dangerous exotic animals," Pacelle said. HSUS lists 22 incidents involving exotics since 2003 that have endangered animals and the public.

"Ohioans have died and suffered injuries because the state hasn't exhibited the foresight to stop private citizens from keeping dangerous wild animals as pets or as roadside attractions, and the situation gets more surreal with every new incident, including this mass escape or release of large animals in Muskingum County."

More than 40 lions, bears and wolves walked away from their open cages Tuesday on Terry Thompson's property after he committed suicide.

"It's the Wild West, and the empty promises, the delaying, and dilly dallying has to end now," Pacelle said."

How stupid does one have to be to need a "study group" to address the safety problems caused by Ohio allowing individuals to keep exotic animals? Kasich's inaction is responsible for allowing a convicted animal abuser to maintain his zoo and for the deaths of these once magnificent animals.

Posted by: Betty Feher (Unionville, OHio) on October 19, 2011 12:10PM
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