I am referring to the release of dozens of large wild animals including tigers and lions from a private zoo near Zanesville, Ohio owned by Terry Thompson. The story was all over the internet newspapers (this is one example). Thompson decided at aged 62 that he had had enough and released the animals and shot himself. Then the police shot the animals – 48 of them. Why didn’t they use dart guns to stun them? They decided that it was impractical. That may have been a bad decision. It was certainly an unfortunate one for the animals. It is always the animals who come off worst.
How freakish is this event? In itself it is a one-off. But might it happen again? If so it would not be such a freak event would it. And how many minor versions of this event take place routinely, which go unreported in the press (answer: lots)? If there are lots you can’t really say that this shocking event is a freak occurrence. It is simply an extension of what happens all the time. All of these events are caused by a laissez-faire attitude to owning large wild animals in private zoos or as pets. The slack approach to regulating the keeping of large “exotic” animals in America is very surprising to Europeans.
The peculiar habit of treating tigers as pets is as unique to America as is delcawing. Perhaps the same mentality underpins both behaviors.
Apparently the laws governing the keeping of exotic animals in Ohio is slack and need tightening up. Some states do have rigorous rules with respect to keeping exotic animals. Massachusetts comes to mind.
There are many detrimental consequences that flow from the unregulated keeping of animals, such as the large wild cats, in private zoos. From a conservation standpoint it is bad. It promotes the idea that tigers are to be “owned” by people rather than allowed space in their own habitat away from people which is infinitely better for the tiger. And where do these tigers come from? There are about 1500 Bengal tigers in the wild. If the tigers are being bred in the US they will most likely be inbred. That can cause ill health for the cat, another downside to the concept of private zoos for big cats.
Joe Exotic owns a private zoo in America containing 176 tigers (G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Foundation in Wynnewood, Oklahoma)! He was stressed. In a television programme, he gave me the distinct impression that he might get out of the business by killing all his big cats. This is the problem. You have one individual, who no one has checked out for suitability, keeping a large number of rare exotic animals in an unregulated manner. You are asking for a another freaky event, aren’t you.