Our View

Private zoos need serious rules

By From page A14 | October 23, 2011

The issue: Taking wild animals out of their natural habitat and corraling them with loose standards is a recipe for disaster

There’s nothing that makes the case for government regulation like having wild carnivores — lions, tigers, grizzly bears — turn up in your yard. Or have your local schools closed because free-running wolves and cheetahs might hunt down the children.

THE OWNER of a private zoo in Zanesville, Ohio, freed dozens of exotic animals from their cages before taking his own life. Based on the news accounts, by any reasonable standard Terry Thompson should not have been allowed to own or keep these animals.

He had been cited repeatedly for failing to care for them and allowing them to run loose. He had had several run-ins with the law, and only three weeks ago had finished serving a one-year sentence for violation of Ohio’s gun laws.

The ideal choice would have been to have game specialists track down the escaped animals with tranquilizer guns, but a tranquilizer dart is not sure thing with a grizzly. And meanwhile, three school districts were forced to shut down and local residents were warned to stay in their houses.

The sheriff felt he had no choice but to order police and his deputies to shoot to kill, and, by midweek, 48 of the 56 escaped animals were dead, their only crime being the captives of an unstable owner. The Columbus Zoo was able to rescue the primates — monkeys, baboons and apes — and three leopards only because they were kept in the house.

OHIO EVIDENTLY has no law regulating the sale and ownership of exotic animals. News accounts say there was an executive order governing the animals but it lapsed.

Taking wild animals out of their natural habitat is just asking to be punished by the law of unintended consequences.

Our View

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