Ohio Agriculture Officials Allow Return of Exotic Animals

A black leopard rescued from a Zanesville exotic animal farm rests at the Columbus Zoo.(Photo: Columbus Zoo)
A black leopard rescued from a Zanesville exotic animal farm rests at the Columbus Zoo.(Photo: Columbus Zoo)

Ohio officials say they will allow for the return of five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall before he committed suicide.

The Ohio Agriculture Department announced the decision Monday at an agency hearing in which they were to defend state’s authority to quarantine the animals on suspicion of infectious diseases.

Spokeswoman for ODA, Erica Pitchford says the animals are free of any diseases and can no longer be held.

“Mrs. Thompson will be able to work with the Columbus Zoo to arrange a pickup time. State law now at this time does not require her to give us any information about where she intends to take those animals or allow us to make any requirements about the conditions where she’s going to take them,” says Pitchford.

Pitchford says ODA requested to examine the cages on the Thompson property but were denied that request through an attorney.

“We have some concerns about the cages that the animals were kept in in Muskingum County. There seems to be indication that there may be an attempt to take them back to those cages,” says Pitchford.

Pitchford adds a pending state law would give the ODA the authority to make the property inspections.

It’s unclear when the animals would be released to Marian Thompson.

Ohio’s agriculture director was expected to lift the quarantine later Monday.

Thompson’s husband released dozens of exotic animals from their Zanesville farm Oct. 18 before killing himself.

Authorities were forced to shoot 48 creatures. Three leopards, two primates and a bear survived and have been held at the Columbus zoo. One leopard later had to be euthanized.

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