Dozens of wild, dangerous animals have escaped ex-con Terry Thompson’s exotic farm in Ohio for the second time, according to local police.
Thompson was found dead at the scene.
Thompson’s neighbor, Danielle White, lives adjacent to the farm. Although she didn’t spot any of the creatures this time, she remembers when she did: a lion escaped from Thompson’s farm in 2006.
“It’s always been a fear of mine knowing [Thompson] had all those animals,” she stated. “I have kids. I’ve heard a male lion roar all night.”
This time, up to 48 animals could have escaped the Zanesville farm, including lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and cheetahs.
Muskingum County sheriff Matt Lutz stated that 30-35 of the animals have been shot and killed by police, according to NBC-affiliate station WCMH in Columbus. Police are continuing to hunt down the escaped animals.
Lutz stated that his office began to get calls around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday that the beasts were spotted on a road running near Interstate 70. Upon investigation of the farm, officers found Thompson dead and the animals’ cage doors wide open.
Details surrounding Thompson’s death are still largely a mystery, but investigators told NBC that early clues point to suicide.
“We don’t know how much of a head start these animals have on us,” Lutz stated.
Because people have been advised to stay inside by authorities, at least four school districts in the vicinity of the 25,000-resident Zanesville have canceled their school day.
Ohio is among the eight states that don’t require a license to own exotic animals but can “regulate some aspect thereof,” according to the state law. There could be correlation between Ohio’s lack of regulation regarding exotic animals and Ohio’s high injury and death rate due to exotic animals.
Some ordinances in Ohio have taken matters into their own hands, preventing the ownership of exotic animals altogether. Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dayton are among areas to ban wild or non-domestic creatures.
Lutz said, “This is a bad situation…It’s been a bad situation for a long time.”
So far, there are no human casualties resulting from the escape.