Yesterday, a person who ran a preserve in Zanesville, OH, released all of his animals in the preserve and then committed suicide. The animals ran out and away. Many news sources are indicating that this is what happened, but nothing has been officially released from the government. What isn’t in dispute is what followed. Sheriff deputy’s arrived and they shot and killed all the animals they could find. In some cases, they shot the animals at the preserve because they didn’t think fences would hold the animals they contained or the few who stayed and defended the body of the preserve, even thought the body was dead. In a short time, Sheriff Matt Lutz decided to slaughter all the exotic animals – it is being referred to as a massacre. These animals included 18 Bengal tigers – a breed that there are only 1,300 of in the world still alive. Other counts include 17 lions, 6 black bears, and 2 grizzly bears, plus others. From my perspective, there had to be a better way to handle this situation. Several people, including Jack Hanna and my wife, have sided with the sheriff. I can’t. I know how our police and sheriff’s departments work here in Indianapolis, and know it would have been a wild free for all for their officers. I don’t care how much they say this was for the safety of the people, many of the animals were slaughtered needlessly. Yes, I know there were several close calls and those aren’t the kills I am arguing about. The fact that they have worked to kill all of the animals is what makes this a crime – no other solutions were worked on. Many news resources are reporting that the sheriff deputy’s frequently drove around with high powered assault riffles in the back of pickup trucks, cornering animals, and then killing them. Many pictures have been released with the carnage that the sheriff’s department left behind.
Let me be very clear here, I am not condoning the actions of Terry Thompson in releasing the animals or killing himself. Some of the blame lies with Terry Thompson. What I am commenting and criticizing is that action of the Sheriff Lutz in not investigating other options for the animals. No, I wasn’t there, and don’t know all of the situation. But, through the images and what has been described by the news, one can only guess that a good amount of the killing wasn’t necessary. This could have started long ago by not being so name calling on someone named Terry Thompson, and trying to work with him. Instead, many have reported that law enforcement and Terry Thompson were at odds with one another, and that he returned home after one year in prison from a weapons violation back in September. I am sure that if the courts found him guilty, he deserved to spend the time in prison. But, law enforcement has a duty to work with the people who they protect, and from what I read and hear, this wasn’t done by law enforcement. This may have even saved Terry Thompson’s life, too.
As with all big disasters, there is always a path of missteps that lead up to the disaster. This started long before Terry Thompson committed suicide or released his animals. Had the local law enforcement done their job, this could have been avoided.
The tragedy is the loss of lives yesterday and today. No amount of arguing whose fault it is will bring them back. We are all to blame.