It has been revealed that exotic animal owner Terry Thompson, who let loose a mass of wild animals in Ohio recently, had a large backlog of unpaid taxes, marital problems, and previous animal abuse charges.
Tragedy struck Zanesville on Oct. 18, when Ohio officials were given no choice but to kill 48 exotic animals after Thompson released them from the Muskingum County Animal Farm on Tuesday shortly before committing suicide. Thompson, who owned the 46-acre reserve, was accused of animal abuse in the past, but due to Ohio’s relaxed laws on animal ownership, Thompson continued to run his menagerie.
Other reports indicate that Thompson owed the Internal Revenue Service $70,000 in back taxes, as well as having a history of marital problems.
Neighbors claim that Thompson’s incessant adoption of exotic animals, which included 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears, three mountain lions, a baboon and one wolf, forced the menagerie owner into massive debt.
“Once you have an exotic animal, you're somewhat tagged as someone who will take unwanted or abandoned animals. And that's how it grew,” said Thompson to government records.
The government once attempted to confiscate 133 weapons from Thompson’s property. He even spent a year in federal prison for possession of unregistered weapons, and had returned only a few weeks before he committed suicide, ABC News reported.
According to public records released Friday, Oct. 21, Thompson traded guns for animals, and tapped into local auctions to continue expanding his exotic collection.
Although reportedly having marital problems with spouse Marian Thompson, animal expert Jack Hanna contended that Thompson’s wife wept uncontrollably when she learned of her husband’s death and the shooting of the animals.
“I understood she was very upset at me for taking her 'children' ... for someone killing her 'children’,” said Hanna to CBS.
Although the state of Ohio has recently announced an executive order that would put a moratorium on wild animal auctions as well as a review of all existing permits, Marian Thompson continues the fight to retrieve the remaining living animals, which include three leopards, two Celebes macaques and a young grizzly bear.
The animals are currently held at the Columbus Zoo under state orders for quarantine.