Ohio woman set to reclaim exotic animals from zoo

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Over opposition from the Columbus zoo, a woman planned Thursday to reclaim three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear that have been cared for by the zoo since her husband freed dozens of exotic animals at their farm and killed himself.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said it took the six surviving animals with Marian Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to the animals. Her lawyers notified the zoo that she will reclaim the animals Thursday afternoon, and the zoo has asked state and federal agencies, including Gov. John Kasich's office, whether they might be able to intervene.

"What we're trying to do is exhaust every avenue to make certain that these animals end up in a place that's good for them and safe for the public," whether that's the zoo, a preserve or somewhere else, zoo CEO and President Dale Schmidt said.

The zoo and other officials said they didn't know whether Thompson plans to take the surviving animals back to the eastern Ohio farm near Zanesville or to an alternate location. Attorneys who have represented Thompson were not available for comment Thursday.

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets, and efforts to strengthen the regulations have taken on new urgency since Terry Thompson opened the cages at his farm last week, freeing four dozen animals that were later shot by authorities. Officers were ordered to kill the animals - including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears - instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and later regain consciousness.

Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, whose office isn't taking a stance on whether the creatures should return to Zanesville, said his office was part of the discussions about how where the surviving animals would be kept.

"If she wants to bring them back here, to this farm, then we're working on what we're allowed legally to do to make sure that everything is safe and appropriate," Lutz said.



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