Zoo Pushes for Law After Exotic Animals Returned

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Five exotic animals were returned back to the woman whose husband released them and dozens of other wild animals before committing suicide last fall.

Two leopards, two primates, and a bear were returned to Marianne Thompson Friday in Columbus.

Her husband, Terry, released 56 exotic animals from their cages at their farm in Zanesville before committing suicide last October.

"We have concerns for the animals and their welfare. The conditions at their farm were not very good there. In fact, they were pretty deplorable, as our team has said ... you've heard Jack Hanna say," said Dale Schmidt, President of the Columbus Zoo.

Authorities were forced to kill 48 of the animals.

The five survivors were taken to the Columbus Zoo.

"The farm in Zanesville had a lack of space and lack of security, and I'm concerned that if that facility has not had any improvements, there might be trouble again," said Tom Stalf, Chief Operating Officer of the Columbus Zoo.

The animals have been quarantined and cared for by animal experts at the Columbus Zoo at the request of the State of Ohio.

That was until a quarantine order was lifted on April 30, 2012.

The Zoo has no legal right to prevent the return of the animals to Thompson.

"Marianne Thompson has a right to the animals, and without the law we are trying to press through in place, she doesn't have to follow any standards," said Schmidt.

Zoo officials are encouraging lawmakers to pass a bill quickly that will restrict private ownership of exotic animals.

"Where we go next is to really push Senate Bill 310 through the House, so that we have things in place that will have some standards for animal care and for public safety," added Schmidt.

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