The big story in Ohio has been the tragic one of a private owner of a large menagerie of exotic animals in a rural area of central Ohio who reportedly released all of them before killing himself. The authorities, confronted with dangerous animals roaming wild in populated areas, shot and killed almost all the animals.
I was stunned to learn of the scale of the carnage. 48 animals were killed, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, and eight bears. The photo of the corpses of these magnificent animals was heartbreaking.
I was also furious that it is even possible for private individuals to obtain and keep these animals in poor conditions but apparently the laws allow it. According to the news report:
Since 2004, Thompson had been charged by local authorities with cruelty to animals, allowing his animals to run free and improperly disposing of dead animals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture also received two complaints about the farm in 2008 and 2009, involving such things as pens that may have been unsafe, animals that were too skinny and dead animals on the property, said Dave Sacks, a USDA spokesman. But the agency decided it had no authority to act.
Federal officials said the government had no jurisdiction over the farm under either the Animal Welfare Act or the Endangered Species Act, since the animals were held as private property and were not exhibited or being used for other commercial purposes.
There are estimated to be less than 2,500 Bengal tigers in the world. Ohio apparently has the dubious distinction of having the most lax, some would say even non-existent, state regulations in the country. How is it possible that we allow a single individual to acquire and keep 18 of them legally? Because of that, laxity about 1% of the world’s population of Bengal tigers have been killed in a single day.
I am not a fan of publicly owned zoos because they keep animals confined away from their normal habitat. The big animals especially never look happy. But at least a case can be made that zoos raise awareness of the need to protect and preserve species and perhaps even help in conservation efforts. But I cannot see any reason why private individuals should be allowed to keep rare, exotic, dangerous, and endangered animals as pets. The practice should be banned.