Hundreds of curiosity-seekers, horse-traders and others have attended an auction of the estate of a suicidal man who released dozens of exotic animals in eastern Ohio almost two years ago.
CLEVELAND - The widow of the man who freed exotic animals from his property before taking his own life could get the surviving animals back as soon as Thursday.
In a news release from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, zoo officials said they had no legal rights to keep the animals, and removed them from the Zanesville farm with permission from Marian Thompson.
Now, Thompson's attorneys contacted the zoo and said she plans to take the animals back.
The animals involved are three leopards, two Celebes macaques and a young grizzly bear.
These were the only animals rescued because police shot 49 other animals that had been released by Marian's husband, Terry Thompson.
"We had hoped Ms. Thompson would leave the animals at the zoo in the care of our team of professionals" said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium CEO and President Dale Schmidt in the news release. "We are trying to get authorization from government authorities and agencies to ensure they stay at the zoo. Unfortunately, the current laws do not protect the animals and at this time we have no legal right to stop them from being taken from the zoo."
Animal expert Jack Hanna said he got a call at 6 a.m. Thursday about the pending release of the animals to Thompson.
"I told her that the animals are hers," Hanna said during a live interview on Good Morning America. "She said they aren't going back to where they came from obviously we wouldn't allow that. Now we have people going to find out where they are going."
Hanna also said he was going to call Thompson and try to discourage her from taking back the leopards, monkeys and grizzly.
"We are trying to pass laws in Ohio to make sure this never happens again," Hanna said.
Attorneys for Ohio told a federal appeals court Wednesday that the state's exotic animal law gives owners a pathway to keep the creatures if they choose and doesn't violate their constitutional rights.
Owners of exotic animals in Ohio would be required to meet new caging, safety and caretaking standards under proposed rules slated for review Wednesday by a legislative panel.
The types of animals being held at Ohio's new holding facility for exotic creatures won't be released to the public, mainly to deter anyone from trying to gain access to them, state Agriculture Director David Daniels said Thursday.
A federal judge has upheld Ohio's new restrictions on exotic animals after several owners sued the state over the law.
A federal judge is scheduled to begin hearing testimony Monday in a lawsuit involving Ohio's new law regulating dangerous wild animals.
A judge has ruled in favor of allowing the Humane Society of the United States to join the state in defending Ohio's new law regulating exotic animals.
Gov. John Kasich has cleared the way for Ohio to enforce temporary rules set by a board that was created under the state's new law on exotic animals.
State officials continue to work with owners of exotic animals to help them fully register their creatures with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, even though the state deadline for them to submit information was several weeks ago.