A heartbreaking waste of life at both the human and animal levels took place in Zanesville, Ohio, last week. On Tuesday, Oct. 18, Terry W. Thompson, an exotic animal owner, unlocked the cage doors of more than 18 endangered Bengal tigers, 17 lions, eight bears and an assortment of wolves and monkeys. Then he committed suicide.
Deputies responding to a neighbor's phone call had no choice but to kill the aggressive, disoriented animals as they roamed the countryside in the rainy dusk near a major freeway interchange. Six members of the menagerie -- a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys -- stayed in their cages. They were captured by Columbus, Ohio, zoo staff and taken to the facility for safe keeping. At this writing, one of the escaped monkeys remains at large.
"It's like Noah wrecking his ark right here in Zanesville," said Jack Hanna, director emeritus for the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, after surveying the scene.
Hanna told a Columbus Dispatch reporter that conditions at Thompson's 45-acre farm were "absolutely horrific and filthy." In 2005, Thompson was convicted of animal cruelty and two other related convictions.