Five exotic animals that survived being let loose from Muskingum County Animal Farm near Zanesville, Ohio, last October will be returned to the widow of the man who set them free, the Associated Press reported.
On Oct. 19, 2011, Terry Thompson, the owner of the animal farm, released more than 50 of his wild animals, including rare tigers, lions and bears, then committed suicide, the AP reported. Area residents hid indoors while law enforcement officers killed 48 of the 56 animals that were were on the run.
Six animals were captured, though a spotted leopard later died, Reuters reported. The remaining five – a spotted leopard, a black leopard, two Celebes Macaque monkeys and a brown bear – have been living at the Columbus Zoo since then.
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The state has attempted to stop Thompson’s widow, Marilyn, from reclaiming the animals by quarantining them, but today the Ohio Department of Agriculture said it could no longer legally prevent her from taking them back, the AP reported.
Thompson has said she wants to return them to their cages on the farm, Reuters reported.
"This raises concerns, as she has indicated the cages have not been repaired, and has repeatedly refused to allow animal welfare experts to evaluate if conditions are safe for the animals and sufficient to prevent them from escaping and endangering the community," the Agriculture Department said, according to Reuters.
Prompted by the escape last fall, the Ohio state Senate recently passed a bill that would ban new ownership of exotic animals and require current owners to obtain a state-issued permit to keep them, the AP reported.
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