Lions, Tigers and Bears Loose in Ohio? Not the First Exotic Pet Emergency


A surreal scene played out for residents of rural Zanesville, Ohio, Wednesday, when reports came in of exotic animals roaming the area -- after cages at the local Muskingum County Animal Farm were left open by owner Terry Thompson, 62, who then killed himself.

In the aftermath of the event, 49 of the lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other animals let loose were hunted down and shot by officials, who had put the are on virtual lockdown, as "public safety was our number one concern," according to Sheriff Matt Lutz.

Local Columbus Zoo director emeritus and celebrity, Jack Hanna, assisted in the effort and said yesterday that the killings of 18 endangered Bengal Tigers was a tragedy, but necessary, considering the dangers the animals posed.

Meanwhile, conservationists were outraged that the farm was even allowed to exist, blaming lax laws, as Janet reports in a separate post.

It's not the first case of impassioned exotic animal collectors getting into trouble when their pets run wild. Why do people collect wild, dangerous animals and what laws are in place to control them? Maybe some recent examples can shed some light on the question. Like the time when...

A tiger got loose in a New Jersey suburb.

(You can check out that episode in a special airing tonight at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet.)

A man was attacked by his brother's tiger in Harlem.

A snake hoarder was bitten by one of her 23 deadly serpents (Watch Here).

Get the full TV schedule for Fatal Attractions, and catch a marathon of programs tonight starting at 8 p.m.

What draws people to own exotic pets?

Well, sometimes...

It can be a childhood attraction.

People become fascinated with an animal's beauty.

And in this case, it's seen as a person's life plan.

Exotic pet owners are not all that uncommon. Here some interesting laws in place about it:

In Florida, while it's illegal to own orangutans, leopards and bears, animals such as howler monkeys, cougars, gray wolves and alligators (but not the American kind) are all acceptable as domestic animals, with the right permit.

Alaska allows for all sorts of wild animals as pets, so long as you don't later release them into the wild, but doesn't allow any pets in beauty salons.

In Arizona, you can own a primate without a permit, so long as it's not an infant.  

And if you're considering owning an exotic pet tiger, for instance, see how you answer these questions. Or how about a pet chimp?

Photo Credit: Gary Vestal/Getty Images

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