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Disputed exotic pets in U.S. to be quarantined

- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Six exotic animals released by a U.S. man who then killed himself will be quarantined instead of being returned to the man's wife, the office of Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thursday.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium had said it was trying to stop Marian Thompson from reclaiming three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear that it has cared for since last week, when Terry Thompson mysteriously set them and dozens of others free into the surrounding countryside. Startled deputies who responded to the scene shot and killed most of them, including rare Bengal tigers, amid fears that some would attack residents.

The Ohio Agriculture Department ordered the quarantine for the six surviving animals. The zoo said it took the animals with Marian Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to them.

Attorneys who have represented Thompson were not available for comment Thursday.

Ohio has some of the United States' weakest restrictions on exotic pets, and efforts to strengthen the regulations have taken on new urgency since Terry Thompson opened the cages at his farm and then shot himself.

Officers were ordered to kill the freed animals — also including lions and bears — instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they passed out.

Until earlier this year, Ohio was under an executive order that banned the buying and selling of exotic animals, but the newly elected Kasich let it expire, saying the regulations were not enforceable. He put temporary measures in place last week to crack down on private ownership.

A private veterinarian for the Agriculture Department looked at the six surviving animals Thursday and determined they needed to be quarantined, said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the governor.

The quarantine order is indefinite, but Marian Thompson is entitled to a hearing within 30 days if she wants to appeal.

It's not clear whether she wants to take the animals back to the farm or to an alternate location, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz.

"If she wants to bring them back here, to this farm, then we're working on what we're allowed legally to do to make sure that everything is safe and appropriate," Lutz said.

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