Blame Terry Thompson, the owner of the exotic animals he let loose in Zanesville, Ohio, for their deaths, not the Muskingum Sheriff’s Department. Unfortunately Mr. Thompson took his own life, leaving the sheriff’s office holding the bag.
It’s reported that the so-called animal lover had almost 60 wild and exotic animals in his possession. His extensive and legal animal collection consisted of lions, Bengal tigers, bears, leopards and monkeys, to name a few.
The Muskingum Sheriff’s Department knew about Terry Thompson, who was licensed to own such exotic animals, because the agency had responded to his farm numerous times since 2005. The complaints ranged from disturbances to animal mistreatment. So the sheriff knew the danger the public faced was very real.
Now, it’s the sheriff’s office that will come across as the villains in this animal-catastrophe. The Sheriff of Muskingum County described how the officers ran into a “terrifying scene” in the black of night, shooting these animals at close range with their sidearm’s due to the potential dangers to the public.
Most experts now agree the shooting and/or hunting down and killing of these animals was imperative. The sheriff’s office will have to contend with public opinion over the images of the dead animals being broadcast over the national airwaves and the public will ask why more non-lethal means weren’t used.
A tranquilizer gun or lesser means over a handgun or rifle would have been wrong at this point. If the sheriff’s office is guilty of anything it would be not having had a plan at least on paper to save face with the public. The sheriff’s department’s action plan could have been basic.
Little things like the action plan demonstrates to the public that, “Hey we were prepared for something like this, we have policies and procedures in place in case this worse case scenario occurred. This is an anomaly and we had to take quick police action that over stepped what we had originally planned for.” It’s a double-edged sword, I know, but Mr. Thompson made this no-win situation the moment he took the locks off those cages.
Police officers are here to save lives first. Releasing those animals at once sealed their fate. The police had to shoot first and ask questions later. Don’t blame them for shooting and killing those animals, blame the irresponsible owner.