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Zanesville Saddened After Exotic Animals Are Killed

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It's been a wild 24 hours in Zanesville, Ohio. More than 50 lions, tigers and other exotic and dangerous animals were on the loose. Authorities say the owner let the animals out of their cages and then apparently committed suicide. Sheriff's deputies were forced to kill some of the animals.


A day of fear for an Ohio town ended in the killing or capture of a menagerie set loose from an exotic animal farm. Lions, bears and leopards that had roamed Zanesville, Ohio for hours were among the dead, as well as 18 endangered Bengal tigers. As Tom Borgerding reports from member station WOSU, residents' fear has now turned to disgust and heartache.

TOM BORGERDING, BYLINE: For years, Terry Thompson legally kept exotic animals on his hilly farm adjacent to Interstate 70, 55 miles east of Columbus. Near dusk on Tuesday night, Thompson unlatched his animal cages, according to authorities, and then committed suicide. Uneasiness spread quickly. Dawnielle Davis lives near the animal compound.

DAWNIELLE DAVIS: I'm kind of scared. I have three babies at home.

BORGERDING: Davis says she kept her family inside until the large cats, bears and a wolf were accounted for. Schools were closed for a day. At a roadside market, customer Steve Tetak bantered with the cashier. He described himself as a big game hunter - big game like deer. Tetak expressed little fear about exotic animals unleashed. He says the community is mostly saddened.

STEVE TETAK: Well, I would say downright they're really probably a little bit disgusted. I mean, I am. You know, I'd say it's not fair to the animals. They didn't do nothing to deserve to be in a cage to start with, let alone turned loose to be shot.

BORGERDING: About a half dozen animals were rescued and moved to the Columbus Zoo. The zoo's emeritus director, Jack Hannah, says it's just lucky no humans lost their lives. For NPR News, I'm Tom Borgerding in Zanesville.

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