Not exactly the teddy bears’ picnic
And it’s not exactly Born Free, either.
The other day, in Zanesville, Ohio, an exceedingly disturbed and disturbingly malevolent man, Terry Thompson, killed himself. But not before freeing the animals that he’d kept in what has been described as “abominable” conditions – something of a concentration camp for animals. Predictably (and, frankly, understandably), folks went into panic mode at the idea that lions, and tigers, and bears (oh, my) were loosed upon the land. Schools were closed, Amber Alert-style signs went up on the highways, and the local authorities went on a big game hunt.
The result? Dozens of animals have been killed, including 18 Bengal tigers and 17 lions. Several were captured alive and two, as of this writing – a monkey and a wolf – are still at large. (My guess is that wolf is in Canada by now. I’m rooting for it. As for the monkey, it’s possibly diseased, so it might be for the best – think Outbreak – if it met its demise.)
The carnage at the farm was just horrific, and the trigger-finger cops are coming in for quite a bit of criticism for shooting to kill, not to tranquilize. (The police claim that if they’d tranquilized, the animals could have taken off before the drug kicked in, and they wouldn’t have been able to track them down, what with the encroaching darkness.)
Whether greater effort should have gone into saving, rather than eliminating, these animals, will no doubt be the subject of quite a debate. Too late for the poor, slaughtered animals, but it sounds like, for the most part, they were being put out of their misery. What Bengal tiger would choose to spend its days in a rundown animal park that didn’t exactly replicate its natural habitat? What lion elects to leave the veldt for a filthy farm in Zanesville, Ohio?
The wild-animal farm in which they lived out their unnatural, truncated lives wasn’t run as a business venture, but, rather, was just maintained for the particular entertainment and delight of the owner, Terry Thompson, who:
…had a history of animal abuse, according to Larry Hostetler, an animal welfare expert who knew him…Hostetler, executive director of the Muskingum County Animal Shelter, had charged Thompson's farm with animal neglect and mistreatment. Thompson liked to show off the animals he'd collected on his 50-acre farm, with a roster that has included animals such as a camel, a giraffe and a panther.
But he never sold tickets to the event, or entertained Zanesville tourists with his mistreated attractions. His interest was deeply personal, and according to Hostetler, deeply unhealthy. Thompson had been ejected from pet fairs in the past for bringing bear cubs to events, and the people he hired were often let go after they challenged him on his care of the abused and dangerous creatures.
Source: IB Times.
In any case, there is not one reason I can think of that a private individual should be able to “own” even one wild animal – think of the poor woman whose face was ripped off by the adult chimpanzee owned by a friend of hers – let alone keep dozens of them in unregulated squalor.
One thing to be living in decent wild animal parks and zoos. Not that this is an optimal setting, but with mankind encroaching on so many habitats, zoos do serve the function of preserving some magnificent species – like the Bengal tiger. And at least if you’re a cheetah loping around the San Diego Wild Animal Park you’re in a setting that has most, if not all, of the comforts of home.
But for every San Diego Zoo, there’s probably some hideous, half-baked place like Thompson’s, run by people who don’t know what they’re doing and/or who are exploiting and maltreating their animals and/or who are nuts. There are plenty of hobbies, and plenty of ways to make a living, that don’t involve treating animals shabbily.
Whatever you think about regulation, I’d say this is an area where there ought to be plenty. But,
Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them…On Wednesday, the Humane Society of the United States criticized Gov. John Kasich for allowing a statewide ban on the buying and selling of exotic pets to expire in April. The organization urged the state to immediately issue emergency restrictions. (Boston.com,)
Sometimes there really oughta be a law!