With the clock ticking on a quarantine order for five surviving Zanesville animals, the Kasich administration is urging Muskingum County officials to take steps to prevent the animals from being returned to Terry W. Thompson’s widow.
State officials say that as of next week, they won’t have authority to keep the animals – a spotted leopard, a black leopard, two Celebes macaques and a brown bear – that have been quarantined at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The Department of Agriculture announced earlier this week that the animals are clear of contagious diseases for which they were quarantined after the Oct. 18 incident at Thompson farm.
Marian Thompson, the widow of Terry W. Thompson, has been trying for months to get the animals back. Terry Thompson killed himself after releasing his animals.
But the Kasich administration isn’t ready to see the animals returned to the scene of the escape last year that forced sheriff’s deputies to kill 48 exotic animals to protect the public.
Affidavits, letters and emails obtained by The Dispatch through public records requests detail the administration’s efforts.
Gov. John Kasich’s chief counsel, D. Michael Grodhaus, in an April 3 email asked Muskingum County Prosecutor Michael Haddox to act “to protect the public and to make certain that the tragic events of October 18th are not repeated.” He said the legal authority to deal with the animals rests with local humane society and health department officials.
The administration also sent Haddox affidavits from several state employees who were at the Thompson farm who described the cages as “inoperable or damaged to the extent that they could not be used for containment purposes.” They also said they saw “unsanitary conditions” and the “overwhelming stench of urine and excrement.”
Haddox said in an interview with The Dispatch that the county is “very limited” in what it can do about Thompson’s animals at this point, absent a new state law which is still in the works.
“In my opinion, we’re on pretty thin ice trying to keep the animals from coming back,” he said. “Unless there’s a situation where there’s animal abuse or neglect or a situation where a public nuisance is present, there’s not a lot we can do.
“If the animals are returned,” Haddox said, “we want to make sure our residents of Muskingum County are protected.”
Robert G. McClelland, Thompson’s attorney, said in an April 18 letter that state officials will be breaking the law if they don’t return the animals to their owner. “Marian Thompson never agreed that the animals should remain at the Columbus Zoo for this many months and in fact attempted to take them prior to the quarantine order.”