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Exotic Animals Returned to Ohio Concentration Camp

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Marian Thompson, whose late husband, Terry Thompson, all-but ensured the brutal deaths of 49 so-called “exotic” animals in Ohio last year, is expected to welcome home the creatures who survived the October 18, 2011, Zanesville Massacre.

The Columbus Dispatch has reported that “Terry Thompson’s farm near Zanesville could have its animals back today. His widow is expected to bring them home from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.”

Another way that lede could have been written is: “The late Terry Thompson’s state-sanctioned wildlife concentration camp could have its prisoners back today.”

The Columbus Dispatch report explains that “(Terry) Thompson didn’t release six animals” on the night of October 18, 2011, and that five of those creatures “have been at the Columbus Zoo under quarantine. The sixth animal, a spotted leopard, was euthanized after being crushed by a closing gate at the zoo.”

As I wrote in February, “Six animals survived Thompson’s state-sanctioned concentration camp only to be imprisoned anew at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. One of those creatures, a long-suffering leopard, was euthanized on Sunday after being ‘crushed by a gate’ at that facility, according to a report in The Columbus Dispatch.”

In that same commentary, I cited a “Statement from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium,” which read, in part: “A Columbus Zoo keeper was moving the leopard between enclosures to conduct routine feeding and cleaning procedures. The leopard moved through the opening but then unexpectedly darted back as the door was being lowered, striking it on the neck. … Upon examination it was determined that the animal had suffered an irreversible spinal cord injury, was unable to breathe on its own, and State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey, who had responded and was on-site to observe the animal, made the decision to euthanize the leopard.”

Reporting on that incident, The Columbus Dispatch quoted Dr. Forshey as saying, “Because this animal had a history of being improperly fed, its bones were left in a permanently weakened state. … In addition, it had a previously undetected genetic malformation to its cervical vertebrae (that was only detected after the incident by X-ray), which also left its spine extremely weak. Unfortunately, the combination of these factors meant that the leopard wasn’t able to survive an injury that would have had little effect on a normal, healthy animal.”

The five tortured animals who are expected to be transferred back to Marian Thompson’s state-sanctioned wildlife concentration camp aren’t exactly leaving a Club Med. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service issued the following findings after investigating the above-mentioned long-suffering leopard’s violent death: “The handling of this animal was not conducted in a manner to prevent trauma to the animal. … Closing the shift door at the wrong time and not having enough people present to shift the cat safely directly resulted in the cat’s death. In addition, the employee was not adequately briefed and re-trained on the shift door procedures following her return to work after being gone for an extended amount of time. The zoo failed to provide a sufficient number of employees to maintain a professionally acceptable level of husbandry.”

Today’s report in The Columbus Dispatch mentions that “legislation is pending in the Ohio Senate that would restrict and regulate exotic-animal ownership.”

In fact, on April 25 — six months after 49 animals were gunned down in the Zanesville Massacre — the “Ohio Senate voted 30-1 to approve legislation restricting ownership of exotic wild animals,” The Columbus Dispatch reported

The bill, SB 310, is a woefully inadequate effort by Ohio’s lawmakers to correct the state’s unconscionable permissiveness as it relates to exotic-animal “ownership.”

The legislation, as described in the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis, “prohibits a person from possessing a dangerous wild animal on or after January 1, 2014, but states that the prohibition does not apply to a person whose possession of a dangerous wild animal is authorized by an unexpired wildlife shelter permit or a wildlife propagation permit issued under the bill or to certain other persons.”

According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis, SB 310 “requires the (Ohio Agriculture) Director to adopt rules establishing standards of care for … dangerous wild animals.”

Let’s hope the state’s agriculture director doesn’t adopt the “standards of care” practiced by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis also indicates that SB 310 “requires a person that possesses a dangerous wild animal or restricted snake that escapes to notify immediately applicable local law enforcement officers and the Division of Animal Health in the Department of Agriculture” and “authorizes a law enforcement officer or a natural resources law enforcement officer to destroy a dangerous wild animal or restricted snake that has escaped and poses a threat to public safety.”

The authorization to “destroy a dangerous wild animal … that has escaped and poses a threat to public safety” seems rather unnecessary given that Muskingum County, Ohio, Sheriff Matthew Lutz’s decision on October 18, 2011, to order his trigger-happy henchmen to massacre the animals Terry Thompson released from his state-sanctioned wildlife concentration camp was supported by TV personality and Columbus Zoo and Aquarium Director Emeritus Jack Hanna.

As I’ve pointed out in previous commentaries, Hanna told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer, “I’m sorry to say that what the sheriff did had to be done or else we would have had carnage out here this morning in Zanesville, Ohio.”

(Mr. Hanna should have specified that “we would have had human carnage out here this morning.”)

Sheriff Lutz was even lionized (pun sarcastically intended) by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund for directing the Zanesville Massacre, as I reported in January.

Just as the debate over Ohio lawmakers’ narrow-minded attempts to correct the state’s callous permissiveness with regard to exotic-animal “ownership” will undoubtedly continue, so, too, will the suffering of creatures whom the less-evolved among us consider property. It is abundantly clear that non-domesticated animals in Ohio will not be rescued from their torturous captivity by the state’s currently serving lawmakers.

And so, while much of America considers Ohio a battleground on which partisan greed-heads fight for control over our lives, some of us believe it’s time to empower those who are willing to fight for those in captivity and in memory of those whose blood forever stained the streets of Zanesville.

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