Zanesville animal escape: 4 years later

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (WCMH)–It has been four years since dozens of dangerous exotic animals were killed in Zanesville after their owner released them, and then took his own life.

Muskingum County deputies rushed to the scene and nearly 50 animals were put down before they could potentially attack a human being.

In the aftermath Governor Kasich, lawmakers and the newly formed Dangerous Wild Animal Commission drafted and passed the Dangerous Wild Animal Act. It put in place special permits, housing requirements and fines for owning dozens of potentially dangerous animals including big cats, primates, bears and restricted snakes.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Dangerous Wild Animal Temporary Holding Facility in Reynoldsburg was built after that night. It is a 20,000 square foot temporary shelter for dangerous, exotic animals.

MORE: Animal Facility Fact Sheet

Sheriff Matt Lutz of Muskingum County says the legislation that created this shelter means residents are safer and so are exotic animals.

“We knew about this farm. We knew the types of animals that Terri had there. But we didn’t know the quantity at the time,” says Lutz.

MORE: DWA Act Fact Sheet

Thompson released most of his 56 exotic animals ranging from lions and tigers to wolves and bears. During that night 48 animals were put down, and the international outcry was instant.

Lutz says if the new laws had been in place then, those animals would likely still be alive today.

“There’s going to be folks out there that skirt the law, and they’re going to have possession of wild animals without us knowing it. We’re never going to end that. But I think today we are definitely in a much better place that we were back when this happened,” says Lutz.

Since March, 2013, 100 wild animals have been housed in the Dangerous Wild Animal Temporary Holding Facility until they could be relocated to a permanent home.

The Dangerous Wild Animal Act also mandated the creation of Dangerous Wild Animal Response Teams and release plans for every county in Ohio. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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