You have made it all the way here, so you may as well sit down, take a minute to look around, and enjoy. What you will find, depends on the day and my mood. You just never can tell.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Zanesville, Ohio Animal Massacre

At this point most of the world is aware of the animal massacre that happened in Zanesville, Ohio when a private zoo owner, Terry Thompson, set free all the animals in his zoo and then committed suicide.

As of 10/20/11 this is the list:
1 grizzly bear…..Captured
3 leopards………Captured
2 monkeys………Captured
18 Bengal tigers…….Dead
9 male lions………….Dead
8 female lions……….Dead
6 black bears………..Dead
3 mountain lions…..Dead
2 grizzly bears………Dead
1 baboon……………….Dead
1 wolf…………………….Dead
1 monkey……………Missing (maybe eaten during the melee)
1 grey wolf…………Missing

This is just the cold facts of the day.  Me?  I wanted to know more.  Who was this dude?  Why did he have so many animals? Why did he set them free?  These questions only brought forth more questions along with rumors, and conjecture heard around town and in dark corners.

First, who was he?  He was a man that had money at one point.  He flew planes, owned land, owned a bar and a gun shop.  He was an all around nice guy.  Had many friends and many hobbies.  Then in 2010, Terry Thompson was sentenced to one year and a day in prison on two federal counts of possessing illegal firearms, stemming from a raid in 2008.  His marriage was falling apart and he was going bankrupt. 

Why did he have so many animals?  From what I have read and heard, he loved these animals.  It started off innocent enough, as they always do.  A few exotic animals to show off to his buddies and “feel special”.  They hold 3 auctions every year in Mount Hope Ohio, which isn’t all that far from Zanesville.  That would be my guess.  They auction off foxes, wallabies, bearded dragons, for starters and then bears, cougars, zebras, and tigers  You name it, they probably have it.  From there, he got in over his head when people started dropping off unwanted animals at his zoo willy nilly.  The idiots out there that think owning a Tiger is SO cool and then suddenly realize that it’s a 300-600 pound wild eating machine and need to get rid of it.  Remember all those alligators in the 70’s?  Terry Thompson would take in these unwanted and neglected animals when state agencies and zoos would not.  That is how he ended up with 1% of the entire Bengal Tiger population of the world at his zoo (all dead now I might add).  In fact, I believe that this is how he ended up with most of his numbers. 

That is also how his money problems began.  How does someone care for, house, and feed that many animals?  When money was tight Terry got a bit on the creative side.  He would round up road kill from the streets.  He would also take any meat from the local groceries that they were throwing out.  Whether it was old or rotten, Terry wold take it. 

There are also rumors and I freely admit that they are only rumors, heard in dark alleys and smokey bars, that when money was exceptionally tight, Terry would hold exotic animal underground hunts.  Who wouldn’t love to go on a lion hunt without having to go all the way to Africa?  I have looked everywhere I can think of to find evidence of this practice, including chat forums, and black market lists, but I can’t find anything to back this rumor up.  Is it true?  I don’t know.  It’s possible.  But nonetheless, it is only rumor.

Why did he set them free?  Truthfully, I think he was in such a state of mind that he believed that setting them free was the right thing.  Maybe he was afraid no one would come out and check on the animals after he was gone and they would starve to death.  Maybe he just wanted to give them a chance to be free.  We will never know for sure, but there is also the belief that he did it out of spite toward the community that gave him nothing but trouble.  Now I would not want to live and raise my small children next to private zoo full of huge wild animals that continually escaped.  But I also wonder, as there were numerous complaints filed, and numerous charges and visits out to this zoo by human society agents,  police, and etc., why did no one realized that he was in need of help.  From all accounts of his friends, he was a nice man.  When the county officials would come out and file neglect charges on him cause his animals were looking half starved, why wouldn’t they or didn’t they realize he was struggling?  Why did a community that was so hyper aware of his every move not realize he needed their help and not their continual legal troubles. 

As I said all these answers just bring about more questions.  Why why why.  Why did so many of them have to die that day?  Yes, it was dark, and it was raining, and it was a wild scary time, but why so many?  No, I would not want to take on a full grown and obviously starving lion.  Yes, I realize that most police forces do not carry and do not store tranquilizer guns.  Yes, I understand there was a community at risk and the animals were high-tailing it out of there, where they would be next to impossible to find.  Why?  It breaks my heart, and I do understand why some of them needed to be put down.  I do, I just don’t like it at all.  It makes me sad. 

Do we need more laws governing this?  Yes.  I don’t think we should say NO ONE is allowed to have them, but I do believe there should be restrictions.  Like proper housing and fencing for one.  Also I think there should be a limit to the number of animals you have.  I also think you should be licensed for these types of animals.  You have to have a license to buy a dog, why not for these animals?  Also you should be required to have insurance, just in case…..

These are my thoughts.  As I said I have so many questions still floating around in my brain.  Will they all be answers?  Nope.  But I'm still looking.  


  1. Well, I am really glad you asked these questions and went digging, Courtney! So very interesting to hear more about this man. They did manage to catch a few of them, then. Really sad. I'm sure he wasn't in any mental state to think rationally about the animals... though I wish he'd called the people in charge of endangered species and left a key! Man. I personally don't think anyone should be keeping these animals, especially without a licence. Maybe we should concentrate on cats and dogs and getting that right first!

    As for the guns... when you live in a society that promotes owning unnecessarily powerful guns to begin with, it's quite the hypocrisy. Government (and society in general) attack the people instead of the issues and their root causes, for which we are all accountable.

    (Personally, I blame Madonna and Michael Jackson for the wild animals.) ;) I'm only half-joking... you have to be careful what you're teaching the people who look up to you and don't know any better.

    You're right, though. We should be helping before things come to this.

    Great post, Courtney.

  2. I totally don't understand why they had to kill all those animals. Why could they not shoot them with sedatives and take them to a zoo? Maybe there were too many, I don't know but just to shoot them dead is cruel and humane, in my opinion. I am sure they were very dangerous out there in the wild, but it wasn't their own doing! It bothers me alot that they were just shot dead.

    I personally think that man let them out to spite people for some reason. Obviously he wasnt thinking clearly. But why would you let out those animals you supposedly loved, into the wild knowing full well that people would most likely kill them! And that they couldn't fend for themselves after being caged and taken care of for so long.
    I cry for those animals. And I definitely think there should be stricter laws on how many exotic animals you can raise. This is a sad pathetic case but maybe it will force government to take a closer look at the laws.
    As far as why did no one see Terry was in trouble? Well for the same reasons no one saw that girl who was kidnapped and kept in that man's backyard for 19 years!! The people that could have helped, just turned a blinds eye because they werent doing their jobs properly.
    Fun post, Courtney. But now I need to go get a tissue, I'm sad.

  3. This is insane. I really don't understand some people. And it's awful that all those animals ended up dying. I don't blame you for wanting more answer, Courtney. There certainly are a lot of unanswered questions here.

  4. Wow, I must live in a bubble. I did not know any of this. How terribly sad.

  5. I wondered about their choice of not using sedatives, too. This was a tragedy of which deaths could have been cut down.