Over the last 36 hours, I've been following the story coming out of Ohio about the man who released all the exotic animals from his wildlife preserve in Zanesville before committing suicide. Why did this man have all these animals?


In terms of numbers, I've heard different reports, the highest being 56. Can you imagine? Grizzly bears, Bengal tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, wolves, baboons running wild in central Ohio? Schools have been closed, people have been hiding in their homes, and mandates have been issued to remain in your vehicles if you have to be in one in the first place. As of this writing, the situation is just about under control. The last report I heard was that only a monkey remained at large. But there are so many questions. The incomparable Columbus Zoo is right up the road. Why weren't these animals there? Why did someone, who was obviously very troubled, have the go-ahead to maintain a wildlife preserve and be in charge of such dangerous creatures. Why hadn't someone followed up on complaints that had arisen in the past about this preserve? Why didn't someone foresee a catastrophe like this? There are likely answers to all these questions; I'm just not sure good they are. But I do know because of this carelessness on SOMEBODY'S part, 18 rare Bengal tigers had to be gunned down. In total, 49 of the escaped animals were killed. It's incredibly sad, but it had to happen. There are those who may wonder why tranquilizer guns weren't dispatched. Well, my guess is since this happened in the middle of the night and caught law enforcement officers completely by surprise, there wasn't time to supply them with the necessary equipment. The animals had to be killed. In my humble opinion, here's the bottom line: this man should have never have been granted permits to keep all these animals. The belonged in a zoo if they were going be in this country in the first place. You'd also like to think he could have exercised the option to leave the creatures in their cages. His suicide would have been discovered and the animals would have been handled by professionals who know what they are doing. But then again, the owner killed himself and WASN'T thinking rationally. He just shouldn't have had them.


You know, there's a show I watch on Animal Planet called "Swamp Wars" about a division of Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue that captures exotic reptiles that have been released into the wild in southern Florida and are terrorizing suburban neighborhoods. These, too, are dangerous creatures that have been brought into this country and mishandled. Boa constrictors and reticulated pythons DO NOT MAKE GOOD PETS! Listen, I have a little, very little, experience with exotic pets and what a mistake it is to have them in your home. And, granted, this is on a MUCH smaller scale. But when I was 6 years old we inherited a little spider monkey named Joe from our next-door neighbor who had passed away. I thought it was really cool to have a monkey in the house, but I soon learned the folly of that feeling. Joe was incredibly territorial. He only liked my mother. Once, when I spoke to her, he leapt off  her shoulder--he would sit there while she did the dishes--then jumped onto the dining table and then onto me and started beating me in the head. He was abusive to my sister. And he actually bit my dad, and then we got rid of him. It SOUNDS good to be able to have an exotic animal in your home. And it SOUNDS good to be able to run up the road to someone's farm and see lions and tigers and bears. But, oh my, it is ABSOLUTELY NOT a good idea. In the long OR the short run.

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