Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tragedy in Ohio

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Imagine driving down the highway and seeing this sign.  Not in Kenya or India or Southeast Asia but in rural Ohio.

They had to shoot several exotic animals dead in Ohio yesterday after they were let loose by their owner just before he committed suicide.  Apparently he had some sort of private reserve on his 73 acre property and had collected an assortment of bengal tigers, lions, monkeys, leopards, mountain lions and wolves and a grizzly bear over the years.  The man is described as someone who had had several run-ins with police and his neighbours and letting them loose has been described as his "one last act of spite" against authorities.
Maybe that is what he intended.  But if you ask me, it was one incredibly cruel act against all of the 48 animals that were then either hunted down and killed or, in a few cases, died after being struck by vehicles.  Only six animals were captured alive (they were taken to the Columbus Zoo).

18 of the animals killed were bengal tigers, who are an endangered species. It is estimated there are only about 1,400 of them left on the planet.  I've always loved bengal tigers - I remember seeing white bengals at the Toronto Zoo years ago, they were so beautiful.
Photo courtesy of 

Photo courtesy of

I certainly understand what a dangerous situation it must have been for the people living nearby, to have all these animals roaming loose in a populated area.  Especially when the animals would be extremely frightened to suddenly find themselves out of their cages and in unfamiliar territory.   According to the Globe and Mail report, "Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness."  I can see why it might be necessary to do what they did, as tragic as it is, in order to ensure that no one was injured by any of these wild animals.  But I still don't like it.

And how is it that someone was allowed to have such a collection of exotic and potentially dangerous animals on their property in the first place?   That's what really amazes and alarms me.  Not just one or two but dozens of them.   Don't you need some sort of permit for that? Aren't there health and safety regulations that need to be complied with to ensure the animals are well treated and safely contained?  And how did this guy afford to feed that many animals???  

Once again, we find ourselves with a situation that causes us to ask why it takes a tragedy of this magnitude to make people take notice, take action, to get the appropriate laws in place to prevent this from happening again.  Another case of "closing the barn door after the horse is loose", or in this case, the cage door after the lion got out.  It's just so sad.

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