Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Dozens of Escaped Lions, Tigers, Bears and Wolves Shot

20 October 2011

Categories: Homepage News, Zoo Check Campaign News

After Dozens of Escaped Lions, Tigers, Bears and Wolves are Shot:
Born Free and Born Free USA Call on the Public to Report Captive Wild Animal Escapes, Injuries and Deaths.

The following statement has been issued by our sister organisation Born Free USA

Washington D.C., October 20, 2011

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, is calling on US citizens to help prevent another tragedy such as the one which has unfolded in Zanesville, Ohio, over the last 48 hours.

The escape of an estimated 54 exotic wild animals from the Muskingum County Animal Farm, released from their cages by their owner Mr Terry Thompson, who allegedly went on to take his own life, has shocked a nation. Police, acting in the interests of public safety, took action and euthanized all but 6 of the escapees while local citizens were advised to stay in doors until the emergency was over.

Now that the dust is settling, questions are being asked of the authorities on whose watch this calamity occurred.

“How is it that a man with a conviction for animal cruelty (2005), about whom the local police have received numerous complaints, was allowed to keep dangerous wild animals without full, rigorous and proper licensing?” asked Will Travers, CEO of Born Free Foundation. “The authorities have a lot of questions to answer as this terrible situation was, in my view, wholly preventable.”

Ohio has some of the weakest legislation in the country when it comes to regulating the private ownership of exotic wild (and potentially dangerous ) animals. Since Mr Thompson was neither displaying the animals to the public (in which case a USDA Exhibitor’s License would probably have applied) nor breeding animals, his Muskingum County Animal Farm operated without effective oversight.

Mr Travers went on: “Surely anyone with some common sense would understand that such a facility must be covered by an effective licensing system or not exist at all. Responsible legislation is necessary to protect the animals from the public and the public from the animals. It should also establish whether an individual is a fit and proper person to operate such an enterprise, whether high animal welfare standards can be met and whether appropriate security and public safety measures are in place. It seems that none of the above were properly addressed and the authorities simply ignored the situation.”

In 2006, the Ohio legislature quickly introduced a bill to restrict private possession of exotics after an Ashtabula County woman was mauled by a 500-pound black bear that escaped a pen kept by a nearby neighbour. The bill failed to pass and just four years later, in 2010, Governor Strickland introduced an Emergency Executive Order after a 24-year-old man was mauled to death by a black bear kept in a Columbia Township compound. The Order temporarily banned private ownership of big cats, bears, alligators, crocodiles and certain snakes. In April of 2011 the Order expired and a new rulemaking process was to be swiftly established in order to implement regulations regarding possession of exotics. This still has not happened.

Born Free USA, a leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation, tracks such incidents through its online database designed as a resource for the media, lawmakers, activists and the public, to help shed light on the magnitude of the issue. 

The database lists more than 1,598 attacks and incidents reported that have occurred since 1990, searchable by state, species, and key word, and includes a map graphic marking each location -- a shocking visual to illustrate how geographically widespread the problem is.

Travers concluded: “It really is time to address this issue wherever it is found but to do that we need the public’s help. If there is an incident involving a captive exotic animal - an escape, an injury or even a fatality - we need to know. We need to add it to the database and then tell our legislators and public servants exactly what is going on and call on them to take action.”

See Will's blog for more

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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