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.