Central Ohio has made the national news again. It's not for The Ohio State University's football team or even for a campaign stop by a political bigwig. News reporters and residents are scratching their heads over the odd news that there lions, bears, wolves and more running free in the Zanesville area.
What sounds like a funny scenario is actually deepening into a deadly and mysterious situation. The owner of the property that housed the animals has been found dead and all of the cages were left open allowing the animals to escape. As of 8 a.m. this morning dozens of the animals have been shot dead by authorities. Schools have been cancelled and residents have been warned to stay in their homes while authorities battle rain in efforts to locate more than 40 animals.
This situation does bring to light a law that current Governor John Kasich allowed to expire. The law, according to the Toledo Blade, was signed by former governor Ted Strickland before he left office and banned several of the animals that are now involved in the mass escape.
The Toledo Blade reports the executive order prohibited the purchase or sale of big cats, bears, wolves, primates, crocodiles, and large constricting and venomous snakes. It would have required owners to register their animals with the state.
Governor Kasich worried about the legal authority of the ban and allowed the 90 day order to expire leaving Ohio as one of a handful of states without a concrete policy on exotic animals.
I am not one to come between humans and their pets, but there is a problem with exotic animals in this state. Born Free USA tracks incidents involving exotic animals and lists Ohio as the fifth in the nation with exotic animal incidents. Stricter laws governing who can buy, sell and keep these types of animals are a matter of public safety. The property involved in this latest incident is being loosely described as an animal preserve, yet there appears to be no backup measures in place to prevent the mass release of animals.
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Update: With Zanesville's officials forced to shoot 49 animals - including 18 rare Bengal tigers - Columbus Zoo Director Emeritus Jack Hanna said this about the Zanesville event in an interview with the press: "It's like Noah's Ark wrecking right here in Zanesville, Ohio," said Jack Hanna, celebrity zookeeper and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo who attended a morning press conference with officials."