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Tragedy in Zanesville

October 20, 2011 - Erin O'Neill
Like many others, I was glued to the television, scouring the Internet for more information on the horrific events that took place just a little over an hour-and-a-half drive from Parkersburg.

What happened at an exotic animal farm in Zanesville is something that has attracted worldwide attention but has, unfortunately, cast Ohio in a bad light. Just a click on any media outlet's website covering the event reveals comment after comment from readers who are appalled by the actions of law enforcement, saddened by the senseless deaths of so many amazing and powerful animals, judgmental of the "backwards" mentality of Ohioans. These people, of course, were not there and have no way of knowing how much more serious this event could have become. Neither do I.

Thankfully, no humans were hurt. But being the big animal lover that I am, I can't help but think there could have or should have been another way to avoid this. I'm not saying the ultimate outcome on the part of law enforcement and zoo officials, including Jack Hanna, was incorrect. I just wish the whole situation had never had to happen. The owner, who took his own life after releasing his animals, should definitely hold the brunt of the public's outrage, but he is not solely to blame.

Ohio does have some of the most lenient laws regarding owning exotic animals like the lions, tigers, wolves and other creatures that were kept on Terry Thompson's 73-acre farm. Currently, Ohio only has regulations on breeders or exhibitors of exotic animals. The current law states that owners must have a health certificate for each animal and they need to have a certificate of inspection by a veterinarian. An all-out ban on exotic animals owned by private individuals was proposed by former Governor Strickland, but his executive order expired when he left office and Governor Kasich has not yet renewed the legislation.

The Humane Society of the United States has named Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Ohio as the worst in the nation in policies on keeping dangerous animals as pets. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which was on the scene in Zanesville, has said there is no way of knowing how many exotic animals are being kept in the state.

Hanna said the accessibility of these animals through auctions in the state is to blame for many private exotic farms popping up and that there needs to be stricter regulation.

So Ohio is definitely under scrutiny now to change its laws but it took a senseless act towards 40-some helpless wild animals to make anyone wake up and pay attention. To me, that is unacceptable.


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