Lifestyle & Belief

Zanesville exotic animal owner deep in debt (VIDEO)


An Ohio State Highway Patrol officer drives past a sign warning of the exotic animals on the loose from a wildlife preserve October 19, 2011 in Zanesville, Ohio.


Jay LaPrete

The owner of an exotic animal farm who set more than 50 wild animals, including rare tigers, lions and bears loose in the Ohio countryside, then killed himself, was deep in debt, records show.

It's also been revealed that shortly after Terry Thompson the owner of the Muskingum County Animal Farm near Zanesville, shot himself, he was bitten in the head by a lion or tiger.

(More from GlobalPost: Ohio: Exotic animals on the loose in Zanesville)

A coroner found that Thompson, 62, had a bite mark on his head from a large cat, Muskigum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said during a televised news conference Thursday morning, USA Today reports.

MSNBC reports that Terry Thompson and his wife had money problems dating to the 1990s, but that their debt had escalated. They owed at least $56,000 in unpaid taxes to the IRS and $12,000 in property taxes, according to the court records obtained by MSNBC.

Lutz, meantime, said he believed the exotic animals at Thompson's farm — including endangered Bengal tigers, grizzlies, mountain lions, leopards, wolves and a baboon — were being bred for sale.

There has been speculation that Thompson's decision to release the animals before committing suicide was a final act of spite aimed at neighbors and law enforcement officers, who had been out to Thompson's ranch repeatedly to investigate claims of animal cruelty and weapons charges.

Ohio sheriff's deputies had killed 48 of the animals on Thompson's property by late Thursday, to protect the local populace, while a macaque monkey was killed by a lion or tiger USA Today reports; three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys were captured; and a snow monkey is unaccounted for.

(GlobalPost reports: Police kill all but 6 exotic animals let loose from Ohio zoo)

The surviving animals were taken to Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo is appealing for donations to help look after them.

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And ABC News quoted Lutz as saying that the sheriff's office had been inundated with calls from people interested in taking the animals to a taxidermist. 


"We've gotten calls and e-mails about what [is] going to happen to the animals ... could they be obtained for these types of things. There's a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to get these animals."