State To Return Exotic Animals To Zanesville Widow’s Preserve

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Ohio officials are clearing the way for the return of five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall, then committed suicide.

The Ohio Agriculture Department announced the decision Monday at an agency hearing in which the state was expected to defend its authority to quarantine the animals on suspicion of infectious diseases.

A spokeswoman for the agency said the state had exhausted its authority in the case and that the state's agriculture director would lift the quarantine order that was placed on the animals in October.

Medical results released last week showed all five animals are free of the dangerous contagious or infectious diseases for which they were tested.

That means the animals can be returned to Marian Thompson of Zanesville, though it's unclear when that might happen.

According to a statement from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Thompson has indicated that she intends to take the animals back to her farm and place them back into the cages which they inhabited prior to the October 18 tragedy.

The ODA says this raises concerns, as she indicated the cages have not been repaired, and has repeatedly refused to allow animal welfare experts to evaluate if conditions are safe for the animals and sufficient to prevent them from escaping and endangering the community once again.

According to the ODA, current law gives enforcement powers to local authorities, not the state.

The ODA says repeated appeals have be made to local authorities to seek a court order to inspect Thompson's farm to ensure safety of the animals and the public.

So far, no such local action has been taken.

Logistics for retrieving the animals will have to be worked out between Thompson and the Columbus Zoo.