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Zanesville's Escaped Animals: In My Backyard

Updated on October 20, 2011
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Sheriff Matt Lutz, addressing the media Tuesday eveningThis was on the side of Highway 40, and Interstate 70, Tuesday and WednesdayOne of the lions that escapedAnother view of the lionThe aftermath
Sheriff Matt Lutz, addressing the media Tuesday evening
Sheriff Matt Lutz, addressing the media Tuesday evening
This was on the side of Highway 40, and Interstate 70, Tuesday and Wednesday
This was on the side of Highway 40, and Interstate 70, Tuesday and Wednesday
One of the lions that escaped
One of the lions that escaped
Another view of the lion
Another view of the lion
The aftermath
The aftermath

The Story

I live just around 8 miles from Terry Thompson’s house, in Hopewell, Ohio.Everyone knows he has numerous exotic animals.At one point, I believe he had 27 tigers at once.There were even a few times that animals have escaped, that came from him, such as when a mountain lion was roaming around a few years ago.But no one had been hurt, the animals were pretty well taken care of, and for the most part, they were safely kept in cages.

Tuesday evening, around seven or so, one of my mother’s coworkers called the house.She said that at Thompson’s farm, some animals had escaped, and that the police had killed a wolf that was running away.It was a little freaky, but we were making jokes about it.The cop gets home that night:

“How was your day, honey?”

“Same old, same old.You?”


We laughed about it, and I know I was even a little jealous of the guy who did it.What a story that would be, right?I bet people would buy you a beer for a long time with a story like that.But that was barely the beginning..

At 9:30, my cousin called.He asked if we had heard about what happened at the Thompson farm.We said we had heard about the wolf, but he said to switch over to WHIZ-TV (the local NBC channel).He told us that, rumor had it, that Terry had let a bunch of the animals on his farm free, before killing himself.Among what was set free were bears, tigers, wolves, lions, and several other types of animals.

His farm sits between Route 40 and Interstate 70, onKopchak Road.You can actually see the farm from Interstate 70.Reports were saying that some of the animals were spotted along Interstate 70.We were talking about this crazy situation, and realized there were people, not fromOhio, just driving through.Some driving through the state, on a trip, when they pass a tiger alongside the road.How crazy would that be?

The more we watched, the crazier the whole thing became.At the time, they said that 48 animals had been released.Police were trying to contain the situation, and save the animals.But with rain falling, and it being evening (by then, it was dark) when they were released, they had to resort to taking the animals down with lethal force.

The next morning, the news was reporting that between 30 and 35 animals had been accounted for, either killed or captured.Between 10 and 20 still remained on the loose.Schools had been closed the night before (Can you believe that?ForOhioschools, that’s only the third time in history school had been canceled because of tigers…), so at least there was no worry about kids being injured on their way to school, or waiting for the bus.

One report said that a veterinarian was able to get close enough to aBengaltiger, to shoot it with a tranquilizer gun.It sat still for about five seconds, then charged her, and tried to escape.It was taken down before it could escape.

Another report mentioned that one of the neighbors was aVietnamveteran.When the shooting started, this man apparently started having flashbacks.So, not only did the Sheriff’s department have to deal with all of these wild animals, there was a man in the woods, having flashbacks, carrying a loaded weapon.The police had to clear everyone else out, to make sure none of them were harmed by the man.

When all was said and done, the police had killed 49 animals -- 18 tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions, two wolves and a baboon. Seven animals were captured, and taken to the Columbus Zoo

In My Opinion

Personally, I think the Zanesville Sheriff’s Department did a fantastic job.Yes, it is a shame that most of these animals had to be put down.Most of them, especially the Bengal tigers, are becoming more and more rare.But, with the dark and the rain, and the fact that tranquilizers aren’t 100% effective (even when they hit skin and muscle, and not bone), and don’t work instantaneously (meaning they would have a chance to run, and remain unfound until it wears off again), I think they made the right call.

The people that are up in arms about them killing these animals, would also be irate if they were tranquilized, escaped, and hurt someone.The people that are saying that the cops were having a blast, and killing these animals for fun, are even more ridiculous.I am sure none of these people were having fun, having to kill so many of these beautiful animals.

Jack Hanna has been commending the Sheriff’s Department, saying I think the public would be a lot more upset if children were attacked by a 300-pound tiger than the tiger having to be shot. This could have been a complete disaster and the sheriff's office did their duty."

The Humane Society has echoed his words, saying it was unfortunate that all of these animals had to die, but the police really had no choice.

A person by the name of MrGym on one of the Times Recorder stories comment thread said it best:

"Gee maybe you could have whipped up a load of tranquilizer guns, ran down to WalMart and picked up the medication, calculated the doses necessary for each and every animal, figured out which animal the deputy would encounter so that he had the right medication for the right animal, and all in time to make sure that none got out of sight. Then you could have whipped up the personnel and equipment required to transport these animals, again before any got far enough away to harm anyone and without putting anyone in danger. Well, if they were close enough to shoot, then they were close enough to sprinkle with our fairy dust and just sent them to never, never land! Well, I gotta go, I need to start a fund to repair our bat signal for the next emergency."

What do you think? Do you think the police did the right thing?


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    • shauneagle profile image


      7 years ago from Westerville, OH

      Once again, fantastic article! I have told everyone in the office about it by the way...

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      I was just reading about this in the newspaper today. It's such a shame. I guess it had to be done but I feel so bad for those animals.


    • Kristeen profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan

      It was Terry Thompson who really killed those animals. :-(

    • MarloByDesign profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      I wish the animals could have been saved - such a sad situation. The police did what they had to.

    • Sue Gee profile image

      Sue Gee 

      7 years ago

      Just had to add, I believe the police did the only thing they could do considering the circumstances.

    • Sue Gee profile image

      Sue Gee 

      7 years ago

      I heard about this and first thoughts were towards the helpless animals and those people around there who might be in danger. I didn't have the entire story then, and as it comes forth, it sure seems more sad than ever! It is great that you covered it here. I would not have wanted to be as close by as you were--except maybe to help, and get a story 1st hand. Thank you for your take on things.

    • Kristeen profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan

      joawmeems, This story is just heartbreaking. Its just too bad that one selfish and messed up man had to cause the death of all these beautiful animals. If he wanted to die - fine, but the animals didn't deserve that. I understand why they had to be put down. There was no other choice, but its just a dirty rotten shame. Thanks for sharing.


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