Disputed exotic pets in Ohio to be quarantined
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Agriculture Department ordered Thursday that six exotic animals be quarantined instead of transferred from a zoo to a woman whose husband freed them and dozens of other wild animals, then killed himself, the office of Gov. John Kasich said Thursday.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium had said it was trying to stop Marian Thompson from reclaiming three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear that have been cared for by the zoo since last week, when Terry Thompson mysteriously set them free on a rural area of eastern Ohio.
The zoo said it took the six surviving animals with Marian Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to the animals. Attorneys who have represented Thompson were not available for comment Thursday morning, according to their office.
A private veterinarian for the Agriculture Department looked at the animals Thursday and determined they needed to be quarantined, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said.
Thompson will be informed of that when she arrives at the zoo and will not be leaving with the animals, Nichols said. The quarantine order is indefinite, but Thompson is entitled to a hearing within 30 days if she wants to appeal the order.
Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets, and efforts to strengthen the regulations have taken on new urgency since Terry Thompson opened the cages at his eastern Ohio farm near Zanesville last week, freeing four dozen animals that were later shot by authorities.
Officers were ordered to kill the animals -- including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears -- instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and later regain consciousness.
It's not clear whether Marian Thompson wants to take the surviving animals back to the farm or to an alternate location, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, whose office isn't taking a stance on whether the creatures should return to Zanesville.
"If she wants to bring them back here, to this farm, then we're working on what we're allowed legally to do to make sure that everything is safe and appropriate," Lutz said.
Until earlier this year, Ohio was under an executive order that banned the buying and selling of exotic animals, but the newly elected Kasich let it expire, saying the regulations were not enforceable. He last week put temporary measures in place to crack down on private ownership. A study committee has until Nov. 30 to draft permanent legislation.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)