Lions, Tigers, and Bears Invade Zanesville, Ohio…but Why?

by Madeline


Ohio is one of 8 states that allow the purchase and ownership of exotic animals; and I’m not talking about your typical rabbit or turtle.

Mr. Terry Thomson had 18 Bengal tigers, 9 male lions and 8 female lions, 6 black bears, 2 grizzly bears, 3 leopards, 2 monkeys, and a baboon on his 73-acre “wildlife reserve” in Zanesville, Ohio.

You don't see this every day

On October 18, Thomson was found dead in his home, and the majority of the enclosures housing these exotic animals were broken open, freeing 50 of these creatures into the surrounding suburban town.  It was later determined that Mr. Thomson had committed suicide after releasing the majority of his wildlife population.

Panic ensued as police demanded that people stay in their homes, closing schools and other office buildings. Civilians were asked to not approach these animals if spotted, but to instead call the police as soon as possible.

Out of fear for the local’s safety, the police began firing at every animal. There were few attempts to actually save these creatures, most of which are currently on the endangered species list. One vet bravely tried to tranquilize a tiger found roaming the town, but the animal became even more enraged afterward, and the police were forced to use a lethal approach.

When the massacre was over, 49 animals of the 50 animals set loose were accounted for. A baboon was missing, but it was assumed that one of the carniverous animals had attacked it shortly after the animal’s escape.

6 of the 56 animals present on Thomson’s property have gained a second chance, including 2 grizzly bears, three leopards, and two monkeys; that were not freed from their enclosures. They were tranquilized, and they are now living at the Columbus Zoo.

An acceptable pet

Thankfully, no citizens were injured in the frenzy. However, 50 lives were lost, and they will forever be a reminder to those who originally thought that it was “acceptable” to keep a wild animal as a pet.

Mr Thomson had acquired these animals through various trades, and even though legal, these animals were far from household pets. The number of exotic animals kept as pets  is increasing every day, and the death of these 50 magnificent creatures will not assist their repopulation in the wild. These captive animals were treated like prisoners. Many of these creatures are still suffering around the world. A simple piece of legislature could prevent this issue entirely.

There are states that do allow the possession of exotic animals like these, including Ohio, Idaho, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The citizens do not need a license to own any exotic animals. Many other states, at least require at least a permit, and they have some restrictions on the species of animals that people can own.

Think about the consequences of having a tiger in your backyard could be… Why not just get a dog instead? Allow those who are supposed to be free to be free; stop snatching them from their families, their homes, and bringing them into civilization, because clearly, it can lead to some very dangerous consequences.

To learn more about the protection of big cats; please visit

National Geographic
Animal Planet
World Wildlife Federation

Please go to and sign the petition to ban the ownership of exotic animals in Ohio, don’t let this event occur again!

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