Questions from Canadian University regarding Ohio Exotic Animal Ban

by Mar 19, 2014

I received an inquiry from a student at the Memorial University of Newfoundland regarding my stance on the Animal Alcatraz in Ohio.  For those of you who asked, below is my response:

What do you believe was the big issue with the topic, what is your general opinion?

The primary issue with Terry Thompson was not the animals or the safety of the caging.  The issue was Mr. Thompson’s mental condition.  Mr. Thompson was well known within the industry to be mentally unstable and should have never been permitted to keep the animals.  Inspectors should be focusing on issues other than caging – the quality of the caging was not the primary issue – the caging was not the root cause of the animal escapes.  The root cause was the lack of mental capacity of Mr. Thompson.

Do you believe that this is something that is necessary to be worried about, was this precarious?
In general I do not believe a recurrence of the Thompson Massacre should be a major concern.  This appears to be an isolated incident by a man who did not possess the mental stability to possess animals.  He should not have been entrusted with the care of a goldfish, let alone the welfare of some of the planet’s most endangered species.

According to the laws and precautions that have recently put into place there is a belief that it is necessary to put these exotic animals under maximum security, naming Ohio ‘the Alcatraz for animals’ what are your thoughts on this?

The incident in Zanesville was not the fault of the animals.  The animals are innocent victims in the incident involving Mr. Thompson.  Worse yet, the remaining exotic animals in Ohio have become the victims of ill-informed politicians with very little knowledge of the care and handling of exotic animals.  In true politician form, the legislators acted out of ignorance, they did not address the root cause and they have spent millions of taxpayer dollars without addressing the fundamental issue.  Before enacting laws which did not address the problem, the Ohio legislature should have been exploring methods to ensure the owners of exotic animals have the training and mental capacity to appropriately care for the animals while maintaining the safety of the general public.

Lastly what does a conservationist and animal advocate like yourself believe would be a more suitable or valuable way to deal with what the state believes is a problem because of the Terry Thompson Massacre?

First, the safety of the public must always be the primary concern for each of us.  That being said, it is important to note that no member of the general public in Ohio has ever been killed by an exotic animal that resides in a properly built, properly operated, properly inspected facility.

Instead of requiring owners to spend countless thousands of dollars on caging (that is arguably already adequate), a better use of resources could have been to train handlers and inspectors alike how to identify individuals within the industry who do not have the capacity to care for the animals properly while ensuring the safety of the general public.

Whether an individual owns exotic animals or not, we are all stewards of their survival.  With poaching, loss of habitat and loss of prey sources, many species are teetering on the very brink of extinction in the wild.  We must be cautious stewards.
The legislators in Ohio should be singing the praises of all organizations, institutions and individuals who have dedicated their lives to caring for animals.  They should be honoring their efforts to maintain the diminishing gene pools of these magnificent creatures.

Instead, every action such as the one taken by Ohio politicians pushes many species that much closer toward extinction.  The truth of the matter is, the blood of endangered species is dripping from the hands of every Ohio politician who voted for this law, and the blood is pooling at the paws of all animals.

The Ohio politicians are ill-advised….
Their ignorance has moved our planet one step closer toward the loss of many endangered species….
And, their legacy will not be as stewards of wildlife but rather as co-conspirators in their own eventual massacre of God’s creatures.