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A monkey and a wolf remain on the loose near Zanesville, Ohio, this afternoon, the only two wild animals still at large after a mass release at a private farm, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting.
Terry Thompson is alleged to have opened the cages that he'd used to keep 48 wild animals — including lions, tigers, bears, wolves and giraffes — then damaged the cages so they couldn't be reused, before committing suicide. A short time later, emergency officials received numerous reports of wild animals on the loose.
Sheriff's deputies arrived on the scene and immediately began shooting the animals. Though some have been critical of the decision to shoot to kill, Sheriff Matt Lutz told the Dispatch they had no choice. With extremely dangerous wild animals on the loose and with no containment system available whatsoever, the entire community was at risk.
The hunt went on for hours through wooded and hilly areas of Ohio countryside. Some animals were killed when they were hit by passing cars.
A smaller numbers of animals, mostly primates that lived in the house with Thompson and his wife, as well as some leopards who were still caged when deputies arrived, have been taken to the Columbus Zoo for the time being.
Schools in at least three districts were closed, and motorists are being warned not to exit their cars.
Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, described the scene as like Noah's ark wrecking, right there in Ohio.
Tom Borderding, News Managing Editor for WOSU Public Radio in Columbus, says Thompson has a history of complaints, and that law enforcement has known about the compound since 2004.
"Ohio's laws on exotic animals, however, are lax," Borderding said. "(The compound) was described by Mr. Hanna as rather filthy."
Borderding says that Ohio's laws are among the weakest in the nation, though indications already are that changes will be quick in coming.
No injuries have been reported thus far from the incident.
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