Exotic animals returned to dead man’s widow

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(CNN) — Five exotic animals once owned by an Ohio man who last year set free dozens of animals before committing suicide were returned to the man’s widow Friday.

Two spotted leopards, two macaque monkeys and a brown bear were returned to Marian Thompson, widow of farmer Terry Thompson, who set off a scare in October when he let loose 50 dangerous animals from his farm before shooting himself.

Forty-eight of those animals were killed by law enforcement, and two primates were killed by the other animals, zoo officials said.

The five animals returned to Marian Thompson were never released from their cages by her late husband. A sixth unreleased animal, a leopard, died in January at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, where all of Thompson’s remaining animals had been housed for safekeeping since the incident.

A state review board concluded that the animals are free of “dangerously infectious or contagious diseases.” The finding required them to lift a quarantine imposed in a move in October to delay their return.

State officials said they were concerned that Marian Thompson has said she would put the five remaining animals into the same cages they previously inhabited on her Zanesville farm.

They said they have no legal power to inspect the cages before the animals are returned, but they are hoping the local sheriff will seek a court order to inspect the farm “to ensure the safety of the animals and the public,” said Erica Pitchford, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Thompson had not allowed local law enforcement onto the farm to check the pens, Muskingum County Sheriff Matthew Lutz said.

“We have the zoo on speed dial,” Lutz said. “If we are pushed to do what we had to do the last time, we would take care of it.”

Legislation that would tighten rules regarding private ownership of exotic animals passed the Ohio Senate in April and is now being heard in the House of Representatives. “Zoo officials encourage lawmakers to pass a bill quickly to ensure public safety and protect the welfare of animals,” the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said in a news release.


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