Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Importance and Necessity of Regulation's.

The terrible news out of Ohio this week about a “preserve” where a collection of big cats and other predators were kept and have now escaped, forcing cops and wildlife officials to hunt and kill them and generally terrorizing the area near Zanesville, seems oddly predestined.

There have been movies about this practice, the trade in dangerous, exotic pets that leads to the need for such preserves (some of these farms have a righteous intent, and are merely there to care for animals whose thoughtless owners can no longer care for them). The first I remember was “The Tiger Next Door.”

Back in March, the documentary “The Elephant in the Living Room” pretty much predicted this disaster. It profiled the folks running these “preserves,” the collectors/hoarders who love love LOVE their wild carnivores, and are pretty much incapable of seeing the danger, the thin margin for error they’re keeping these beasts under, the immorality and stupidity of their “hobby.”

Worst of all, they can’t see the future, when accident, ill health (a shocking number of them are on some form of disability) or finances won’t allow them to keep a great beast in a tiny cage any longer.
Not sure what happened in Zanesville, but the movie nailed both the sort of thing that would happen — wild, meat eaters on the run, a dead owner — and where — Ohio, which has some of the most lax laws in the nation when it comes to this practice.
The film follows a wildlife officer named Harrison for much of its length, and he gets the last word. From my review — “These stories, as Harrison points out, never have a happy ending. An Ohio emergency room doctor who does charity work in Africa explodes that “THEY have the sense not to keep cobras as pets, or have lions in their yard.” And Harrison, in the film’s sternest indictment, profiles the typical owner of a predator — on disability of some sort, filling a void in their lives and incapable of thinking past “How much is that tiger in the window?” and seeing the tragedy of keeping a huge wild animal in a tiny cage or the danger they’re putting themselves and others in.

“The very people keeping this cruel and dangerous trade alive are the last folks you want responsible for that thing with claws and/or fangs living next door.”

Michael Webber’s film is eerily prophetic, and if the legislatures in Ohio and other states where these practices are widespread have any sense, they’ll rent it and take appropriate action. The people who crave these critters are too often the last ones you’d want to be responsible for them.


Thompson, 62, had had repeated run-ins with the law and his neighbors. Lutz said that the sheriff's office had received numerous complaints since 2004 about animals escaping onto neighbors' property. The sheriff's office also said that Thompson had been charged over the years with animal cruelty, animal neglect and allowing animals to roam.

He had gotten out of federal prison just last month after serving a year for possessing unregistered guns.

Thompson had rescued some of the animals at his preserve and purchased many others, said Columbus Zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters.

It was not immediately clear how Thompson managed to support the preserve and for what purpose it was operated, since it was not open to the public. But Thompson had appeared on the "Rachael Ray Show" in 2008 as an animal handler for a zoologist guest, said show spokeswoman Lauren Nowell.


Huffington Post

Killing scores of exotic animals after they were set free from a farm in Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday night was the right thing to do, according to Director Emeritus of Columbus Zoo Jack Hanna.

Terry Thompson, the owner of Muskingum County Animal Farm in Ohio, set free the animals before committing suicide, the Associated Press reports. Nearly 50 animals on the loose, including lions, bears, monkeys, and 18 rare bengal tigers, were hunted down by officers.

Hanna said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference that the officers who had to kill the animals were struggling with what they had to do. He said, "Going home and saying to their kids they had to shoot a tiger, one of the rarest animals in the world, I wouldn't want to be one of these guys, having to tell my kids."

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species estimates there are fewer than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the wild as of 2010, due in large part to poaching and habitat loss.


"It's like Noah's Ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio," lamented Jack Hanna, TV personality and former director of the Columbus Zoo.

Hanna defended the sheriff's decision to kill the animals but said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic. There are only about 1,400 of the endangered cats left in the world, he said.

"When I heard 18, I was still in disbelief," he said. "The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is."

Barney Long, an expert at the World Wildlife Fund, noted that tigers in general are endangered. He said there appear to be fewer of them living in the wild than there are in captivity in the U.S. alone. Over the last century, the worldwide population has plunged from about 100,000 in the wild to as few as 3,200, he said.

In an interview with MSNBC following the press conference, he said, "We did the right thing. I think the sheriff did the right thing. Obviously the loss of animal life is tragic but what happened, happened."

At the Wednesday press conference, Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said 49 animals had been killed, and a monkey possibly infected with herpes B virus was still on the loose. He said there were a total of 56 animals kept on the farm.

Center for International Policy's Glenn Hurowitz wrote on his HuffPost blog about the "wildlife slaughter": "Police too often respond to one complaint with a hail of bullets - even when it's native wildlife like black bears, wolves or mountain lions. This is especially true in areas where predators were exterminated decades past, but are now migrating in from other areas."

He added: "Lethal measures should only be used as a last resort - and especially in cases like this, where police are dealing with highly endangered animals like tigers (3,000 left in the wild) and lions (just 23,000)."

"We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog," Lutz said, according to CNN. "These are 300-pound Bengal tigers that we have had to put down. "When we got here, obviously, public safety was my number one concern. We could not have animals running loose in this county," he said.

USA Today reported Lutz said deputies did not have tranquilizer guns. "Deputies were shooting animals at close range with sidearms," he said.

"We found a mature adult bengal tiger in some brush… this veterinarian got very very close and tried to tranquilize this thing. I think we hit it, but as we did, it got up, showed very aggressive behavior towards her, then turned and started going away from her," Lutz said at the press conference. He added that because they did not know for sure if the animal had been properly hit with the tranquilizer and may have got away, they "did not want to take any chances and shot it."

According to CNN, in nearby Licking County, Sheriff Randy Thorp said the county SWAT team had been activated and equipped with night vision equipment and "necessary weapons."

WKYC-TV reports that Hanna said: "The main thing is we have a couple animal auctions in the state of Ohio that have to be shut down. It's like a drug dealer. You finally get the drugs and, you know, then the man gets the animals. So where's the source of these animals coming from? That has to be stopped and if the governor wants me involved, we will stop these animal auctions and stop it immediately. It has to be done. This is an example here. What happened here should not happen again."

CNN reports that Thompson was cited in the past for animal abuse and neglect.

Hanna said in the MSNBC interview that three leopards, some monkeys and a young grizzly had been taken to Columbus zoo until it could be figured out what to legally do with them.

MSNBC writes: "Animal-welfare groups say Ohio is notoriously lax when it comes to wild-animal ownership. It's one of fewer than 10 states that have no rules regulating the sale and ownership of exotic animals."

Delcianna Winders, Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at PETA told HuffPost: "This is a tragic example of how things can go very wrong when people are allowed to keep exotic animals." She added, "Animals always pay the price and [this situation] is a perfect example of this."

She said PETA hopes it will be "a wake up call to the governor" to tighten legislation on keeping exotic animals.


Wade G. Burck said...

Anonymous said...

Wade, I thought you'd have a comment on the events in Zanesville, Ohio today. What a friggin shame. I don't know how that guy was suporting such a collection of animals, but I wonder how many santuaries/hoarders are in this country. It seems like every year there's another nationally reported tragedy involving these people. How many people, in general acummulate these big, expensive to keep, animals without any thought of how they'll be able to support them for the rest of their lives. And then his final act of releasing them to be shot by the authorities. I would have had more respect for him if he had euthanized them himself before biting the bullet. Anyway, there's so many aspects of the whole thing that just piss me off.

October 19, 2011 7:20 PM

I have moved your comment here, as you are as impatient as Thomas. :) I was waiting to see how this deal played out, and a few more fact's became available. I stand by my thought's on the issue in the past. The exotic animal trade need's to be regulated, and regulated with a hammer. Folks need to be certified as "qualified", and not some phony certification such as the "supposed" animal training license that is required in England. In addition, ALL animal trainers, exotic owners, etc. should be subjected to a stringent psychological profile test. The insanity that because you own something, or were able to buy it qualifying you as knowing a single thing about it is ridiculous. Being able to purchase an airplane, or even being given one as a gift, sure does not make me or anyone else a pilot. Neither does owning an exotic make you a zoologist, or at the least a caricature like Jungle Jack.
We need to get over our fear of death. It isn't a bad deal, if it occurs relatively fast and quick. If the cattle rancher die's and his family doesn't want the responsibility of his legacy, there is an outlet for it's disposal. They become rib eye's and T bones. If the horse rancher die's and his family doesn't want the responsibility of his legacy, there is not much of an outlet for it's disposal, one the horse meat market was banned. They are left with trying to get someone to buy a few, give a few away etc. etc. much like an exotic rancher's family. If we are honest, we accept that for every "good" dog adoption facility, there are a dozen shit holes. What is wrong with death? Quick and painless, the individuals who put the animal in that place, banned forever from ever having another one? You are involved with leather product's Ian. The tanning industry was a horrible, often time's indescribable business centuries ago. Should they have banned it? Or as they did, fix and improve it, to where it is today, with continued tweaking getting as close to perfection as possible.
Regulate them/us/me what a hammer, Ian. Go hard at the one's who think that because they were born in a hospital and their daddy/mommy was Christiaan Barnard that somehow qualifies them to be heart surgeons. I am referencing my own industry, and those folk's know full well who they are. Make them prove their qualifications. Don't give them a scalpel just because.


Anonymous said...

It's not the death of the animals that is disturbing, but the whole situation. I have no doubt many of them originated from misguided people who at some point thought it would be cool to have a cub and then dumped them at this shit hole when they changed their minds. The Michael Jackson chimp story comes to mind. One moment they're 'like family' and the next they're rotting away in some crap hole in a barn in Ohio. It happens with horses all the time, but those thousands of stories aren't dramatic enough to make the news. In my opinion, there's way too much breeding of ALL animals going on. It's just way to cheap and easy to get them.
Different, but similar is the new wave of gorilla poaching that is going on in the Congo. Seems that the new status symbol with the new Russian and Asian millionaires is to have a baby gorilla as a pet. This crap never seems to end.


Anonymous said...

I don't know what the rarily of tigers in the wild has to do with these animals. The story makes it seem that they were wild caught, or could somehow be repopulated in Asia.


Wade G. Burck said...

That has been one of my issue's with Jungle Jack since he first "burst" on the scene. He often times doesn't seem to know what it is he he talking about, which may not be the case, but he make's it seem that way with some of his statements and comments. Give me a Jim Fowler any day with insight, information, and hard facts. Not a chocolate milk shake pored down my throat.