COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The widow of an exotic animal owner
who released dozens of creatures from their eastern Ohio farm before
killing himself has told state officials that she has relocated five
animals that survived the 2011 incident.
The animals were among
those released from the Zanesville farm in October 2011 by Terry
Thompson. He committed suicide after opening the animals’ cages.
Authorities killed 48 animals — including black bears, African lions and
Bengal tigers — fearing for the public’s safety.
In a letter
dated Dec. 30, Thompson’s widow, Marian, said she transferred the
surviving animals — two adult leopards, two primates and a bear— to
another Ohio farm. The Associated Press obtained the letter Wednesday
through a public records request.
The state had released the
animals to Marian Thompson in May 2012 after initially holding them at a
Columbus zoo. The zoo had to euthanize one other leopard.
two years of constant consideration and emotional turmoil, it is with
deep sorrow that I inform you of the rehoming of my exotic animals," she
wrote in the letter to an administrator at the Ohio Department of
Agriculture. "Their safety and well-being have always been my top
priority and, due to continual threats made toward them and the property
upon which they reside, I am forced to make this decision."
Thompson did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Rodgers, the department’s chief legal counsel, acknowledged receipt of
the note in a letter sent to Thompson on Tuesday but said the state had
not received a request to authorize the transfer of the animals.
agriculture director must authorize any transfer of a dangerous wild
animal after Sept. 5, 2012, under the state’s new law regulating exotic
creatures. Rodgers asked Thompson to respond in 10 days.
Huntsman, who owns Stump Hill Farm near Massillon, confirmed Wednesday
that the five surviving animals have been in the care of her federally
licensed exotic animal education center between four and five months.
Huntsman is among seven owners who are challenging Ohio’s new law,
claiming the rules infringe on their constitutional rights.
Thompson’s letter also said she moved two other young leopards to a
separate address in the state. She said those animals were registered to
another owner in Dresden, who is applying for a permit.
Ohio’s new law required owners to obtain permits by Jan. 1 to legally keep their dangerous wild animals.
applicants must pass background checks, pay fees, obtain liability
insurance or surety bonds, and prove they can properly contain the
animal and care for it. They also had to register their animals with the
The department has so far issued nine permits and received
63 incomplete permit applications from owners, said agriculture
spokeswoman Erica Hawkins.
"We are trying to work with owners that
genuinely want to be in compliance with the law to get them in
compliance with the law," Hawkins said.
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