Zanesville animals to be returned to residence? Here’s how to help protect them

Just when you thought the story couldn’t get any more tragic or bizarre: The Columbus Dispatch reports this morning that the six surviving animals of the Zanesville, Ohio, massacre are now in danger of being relinquished to the wife of their former owner.

As of this writing (10 a.m., PST) the leopards, macaques, and grizzly remain at the Columbus zoo, but Terry Thompson’s widow, Marian Thompson, notified officials that she wants the animals returned to her immediately.

I am no fan of zoos. I can’t imagine many situations in which I’d advocate for keeping an animal in one. But in this case, there’s no question. This zoo is in a better position than a private citizen to provide veterinary care, food, at least some acreage for the animals to move and roam, and at least some mental stimulation.

To my knowledge, Marian Thompson hasn’t proven she can ensure any of the above to the three leopards, two macaques, and young grizzly. Should evidence emerge that she is somehow equipped to provide premium care for the six exotics, there’s reason for the conversation to continue. (Hard to imagine, considering the animal abuse conviction of her husband and the reports of appalling living conditions on the farm property.)

In the meantime, her emotional plea to be given back her “babies” should not supersede the needs of the animals. If these are truly her babies, let’s ensure them the same protection we would any other baby. Let’s demand fit and appropriate guardians —and the protection Ohio was unable to provide them in the past.

Please join me in contacting the governor of the state.

(Feel free to copy and paste.)

Dear Governor Kasich,

Reports that Marian Thompson has requested and may obtain custody of the six surviving Zanesville exotic animals are deeply troubling. As you know, these animals deserve no less than premium quality of life after years in reportedly deplorable conditions.

Unless and until each one of the following questions can be answered yes, we ask that you intervene, ensuring the leopards, macaques and grizzly will remain under the auspices of the Columbus Zoo where adequate care is guaranteed.

  • Is Thompson able to prove she has the knowledge and resources to provide each animal appropriate species-specific care, in accordance with rigorous humane guidelines?
  • Is Thompson able to prove she can provide levels of mental and physical exercise, in accordance with rigorous humane guidelines?
  • Is Thompson able to prove she can provide adequate veterinary care?
  • Is Thompson able to prove she can provide adequate food and water?
  • Is Thompson able to prove she can provide appropriate, species-specific companionship where necessary?
  • Is Thompson able to prove she can ensure the safety both of the animals and thecommunity?

As voters, the people of Ohio and of this country are extremely concerned with strengthening the laws around the protection of all animals. It’s time to send a message that wild animals are not pets; they belong in their natural habitats, not on private residences. Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Leslie Smith

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