After the sad slaughter of 49 domestic animals, including 18 rare Bengal tigers, people are rightfully outraged over the lack of U.S. wildlife ownership laws. Numerous bears, lions, tigers, wolves, and monkeys were set free from a private Ohio farm by their owner, Terry Thompson, who shot himself after unleashing these animals. As it grew dark out, police promptly followed shoot-to-kill orders to protect local residents. By late Wednesday night only one grizzly bear, three leopards, and two monkeys were captured alive, leaving 49 dead. The Executive Vice President of Born Free USA, Adam Roberts, astutely described the problem and called for action: “Nobody should have these animals in the first place, so we need to take steps to change laws to make that a reality.”
The private farm had received over three dozen complaints since 2004 including serious charges of animal mistreatment, but tragedy still struck before the issue of wildlife ownership became well known. Ohio is one of the few states where no wildlife ownership laws exist, despite conservationists’ demands for regulation. Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin and West Virginia are states similarly lacking necessary laws to protect exotic animals.
Animal Fair is shocked and saddened by this tragic outcome that was completely preventable. Our only hope is that this loss will raise widespread awareness about the need to protect our wildlife. This incident took 18 bengal tigers, further devastating the already declining population of wild tigers. There are only 3,200 tigers left in the wild today, after over 100,000 were thriving at the start of the last century. The lesson here is that these animals need to be in the wild and have a right to a life in natural habitats. The purpose of captivity should be to curb the declining population of endangered species through breeding, and this should only occur in strictly regulated, public facilities.
Ohio Congressman and animal rights advocate Dennis Kucinich agrees, writing “I am hopeful that in light of this most recent tragedy, Governor John Kasich will heed the calls of the Humane Society of the United States and the public and quickly enact appropriate restrictions on the ownership of exotic animals,” in a recent statement. We hope other states will follow suit with necessary regulations in order to protect wild and exotic animals. Contact your governor and local representatives to make them aware of the issue and importance passing wildlife ownership legislation.