I wasn’t the least bit surprised when the usual crowd of clueless airheads started raising hell about Sheriff Matt Lutz’s orders to shoot to kill dozens of dangerous exotic animals in Zanesville, Ohio last week, after their owner turned them loose before committing suicide.
Blogs and comments on news stories are calling the sheriff’s actions cruel and heartless, and saying that these were “pets” that didn’t need to be destroyed. Over and over I see comments that the sheriff’s deputies should have used tranquilizers to subdue the animals and get them back into their cages.
All I can say to that is the same thing I say to people who second guess police after a shooting incident, and want to know why they did not just shoot the weapon out of a suspect’s hand? If you weren’t there, shut up!
It’s real easy to sit back in your easy chair and criticize from afar, but try being out in the dark with large predators on the loose who can easily kill you, or some unwary citizen.
In my time running small town newspapers in the western United States, I have accompanied Game and Fish officers on three occasions when they tried to tranquilize nuisance bears. It’s damned hard to hit a moving animal with a dart, and they miss as often as they hit their target. And guess what? Even if you do hit it, large animals don’t just lay down and go to sleep. They either charge, or they run away and keep moving until the drugs take effect. If they take effect!
Eighteen Bengal tigers were killed in Zanesville. In case you didn’t know it, a Bengal tiger can weigh anywhere from 250 to 500 pounds. Would you want to stand around and wait for a tranquilizer to take effect on a carnivore that big, after you just pissed him off by sticking a dart in his butt? I damn sure wouldn’t!
Have you ever been in the presence of a large carnivore with no bars separating you? I have, and I’ll tell you right now, it’s scary! Years ago, I interviewed a couple who had an African lion as a pet. When they brought it into the room where I was sitting on the couch, I almost wet myself! Up close, a fully grown male lion is huge! And though this guy was as friendly as a housecat, and loved to lay on his back and have his belly scratched, I was well aware that he could eat me if he chose to. I was very happy when they took him back out of the room.
As for these kinds of animals being just “pets,” did you see the news report that said that Terry Thompson, the man who owned the Ohio animals and turned them loose, was bitten on the head by one of the big cats after shooting himself? Yeah, everybody needs a pet like that!
And now Thompson’s estranged wife wants the surviving animals, which include three leopards, a grizzly bear, and two monkeys, returned to her. She says they are her “children” and that she misses them. In an ABC news report, she is reported to have told a Columbus, Ohio zoo official that when she was still living at home, the surviving female monkey would sleep with her.
Instead of criticizing the sheriff and his deputies for doing what they had to do to protect the public, maybe we should criticize people who own dangerous exotic animals and lose track of the fact that they are indeed animals, not “children.”
And maybe we should criticize a state that has some of the nation’s loosest laws on the private ownership of exotic animals, and also one of the worst records for attacks and injuries from those same type of animals.
Following the Zanesville incident last week, Ohio Governor John Kasich issued an executive order clamping down on private ownership of exotic animals. That’s something that should have been done a long time ago.
Tags: African lion, Bengal tigers, carnivore, Columbus Ohio zoo, dangerous exotic animals, Game and Fish officers, grizzly bear, large predators, Ohio Governor John Kasich, police, Sheriff Matt Lutz, Sheriff’s deputies, shooting incident, small town newspapers, tranquilize nuisance bears, tranquilizers to subdue wild animals, Zanesville exotic animals