Entries in Exotic Animals (6)


Gators, Snakes, Gila Monster Removed from Wisc. Home

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(KENOSHA, Wisc.) -- Authorities and zoologists in Wisconsin removed a throng of exotic reptiles being housed in an urban residence this week — including a Gila monster, crocodiles and snakes — as shocked neighbors looked on.

Kenosha police responding to a possible animal cruelty complaint Tuesday entered a home, situated just a few blocks from the city’s central police station, to find a 4-foot skeleton of an alligator in a large aquarium, the body of a large burned snake lying in some weeds, a dead 4- to 5-foot alligator, and the carcass of a fawn.

In the basement of the residence officers found a homemade indoor pond and several aquariums of various sizes throughout the residence with live animals. One contained a large Gila monster, and another contained a 4- to 5-foot crocodile, while one housed multiple snakes. The animals were located in containers in the basement of the residence, where two 6- to 8-foot alligators were found in a homemade indoor pond. A “very large” snapping turtle was found in a tub, police said.

Lt. Brad Kemen said that the animals that were found alive were transported out of the residence.

“They’re in the care of the Racine Zoo, and they’re in good condition,” Kemen told ABC News.

Gregory Maser, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Parkside, said that he was in a meeting with the president of the Racine Zoo when police got in touch about their discovery.

Maser said that he helped remove the animals, including five rattlesnakes, two American alligators, a crocodile, a Gila monster and a large alligator turtle.

“We had to be careful because the Gila monster is venomous, and the rattlesnakes are venomous,” he said. “The crocodiles were pretty small, I grabbed it. The alligators were a bit bigger. We had a few people, noosed them and taped their mouth.”

Maser said that the house hadn’t been lived in for what seemed like quite a while, and that the electricity and utilities were out. He said that he believed that someone had at least been coming back to occasionally care for the animals, and that the owner had done a lot of work on the house to have ponds in the basement for the animals.

There had been a small fire in the house, Maser said. He confirmed that a snake had been burned on the property.

Where the animals care from, and who owns the residence, is still unknown, according to Kemen.

A Kenosha city ordinance bans residents from owning wild animals, or an animal that may endanger life or property. Violators are to be fined no more than $300, plus prosecution costs, according to the ordinance.

“Once we investigate what animals were there, and they’re identified by the zoo, we’ll determine what if any charges will be filed,” Kemen said. Police declined to identify the owner of the home.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Surviving Exotic Animals Returned to Owner in Ohio

Jay LaPrete/Getty Images(ZANESVILLE, Ohio) -- Ohio officials plan to return five exotic animals to a woman whose husband released 50 wild animals, including mountain lions, Bengal tigers and bears, into the Ohio suburbs last year before committing suicide, requiring authorities to kill nearly all of the creatures to protect the public.

Marian Thompson, the widow of Terry Thompson, will take possession of two leopards, two monkeys and a bear -- five of the six animals who survived the incident and have been living at the Columbus zoo. A third leopard was also living at the zoo but had to be euthanized.

State officials had no legal means to keep Thompson from reclaiming the animals, as long as she was able to demonstrate to the State Agriculture Department that she had prepared adequate arrangements for their care.

Terry Thompson, 61, released the animals on the evening of Oct. 18 and then shot himself with a handgun. He had just been released from prison after serving a year for illegal firearm possession. After he died, an animal bit him in the head and dragged him into the driveway of his Zanesville home.

Fifty animals, including 18 Bengal tigers, 17 lions, eight bears, two wolves and a baboon began spreading out from Thompson's home after the release.

The state highway patrol cordoned off a seven-mile area and law enforcement officers began searching for the animals in the dark with infrared devices. By the next day all had been shot dead or had been hit by cars, though one monkey appeared to have been killed by an escaped lion and a second monkey was believed eaten by a lion. One bear was dropped by a police officer with a handgun after it had approached within seven feet.

Six animals survived and were transferred to the Columbus zoo. Thompson had been cited previously for animal neglect, and an official who had visited his property on the day of the incident had noted that the cages for the monkeys and at least one of the bears were inadequate.

Ohio has some of the nation's weakest laws governing exotic pets. The state senate has passed a law that would ban any new ownership of exotic animals. Current owners would have to meet specified conditions and also obtain a permit. The state house must now pass the bill, and Gov. John Kasich has said he will sign it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Florida Opens Door for Owners to Surrender Exotic Pets

Courtesy Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (ORLANDO, Fla.) -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation held its first Exotic Pet Amnesty Day on Saturday -- an event for exotic pet owners looking to give up their animals, no questions asked.

In all, 64 animals were turned in, including a leopard gecko, two Madagascar giant chameleons, pythons, boas, turtles, fish, and about 30 Australian sugar gliders -- marsupials from Australia similar to flying squirrels -- according to the FWC.

During the event, pet owners were allowed to turn in their animals without facing any consequences.  But according to FWC officials, most people who turned in animals said they just couldn't keep them.

"In many cases, people said they just couldn't care for them anymore.  One of the turtles kept growing and they couldn't accommodate its space needs," FWC's Joy Hill told ABC News.

"Things just got out of control for the woman who impulsively bought a sugar glider and then a couple more to breed with it," Hill said.  "She ended up turning in about 25 of them, including a few little babies -- they are prolific breeders."

Veterinarians at the event taught attendees about the animals and their proper care, and all of the animals were adopted by individuals or facilities capable of caring for them, as determined by the FWC.

The main idea behind the event, and the no-questions-asked policy, is to prevent people from simply releasing the animals into the wild once they can no longer care for them -- a practice that can cause some serious problems, Hill said.

Last month, the release of dozens of dangerous animals from a private farm in Ohio drew national attention to the problem.  Before killing himself, owner Terry Thompson opened the cages of his dozens of lions, tigers, bears, wolves, and monkeys, many of which were killed while running loose.

The tragedy in Ohio prompted renewed calls for stricter laws regarding the ownership of exotic animals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rescued Zanesville Animals Quarantined at Columbus Zoo

Jay LaPrete/Getty Images(REYNOLDSVILLE, OH) -- There is a possibility that Marian Thompson, the widow of Terry Thompson, will be reclaiming the six animals that survived last week’s tragedy at the couple’s farm in Zanesville, Ohio, but not any time soon.

Three leopards, two Celebes macaques and a grizzly bear have all been in the care of experts at the Columbus Zoo since they were rescued. The 49 other animals that were released by Thompson before his suicide were shot and killed by law enforcement personnel because they posed a serious threat to public safety.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has issued a quarantine order for the six animals currently at the zoo due to the possibility that the animals could be infected with disease as a result of the conditions in which they were reportedly held.

This order indefinitely prohibits the Zoo from moving or releasing the animals to their owner until they are deemed no longer a potential disease thereat.

Marian Thompson can appeal the quarantine order and may request a hearing within thirty days.

According to a press release, the zoo had no legal rights to the animals and removed them from the farm with permission of Marian Thompson.

The Columbus Zoo has been working with the state government to draft a law that would enact stronger Ohio laws restricting private ownership of such exotic animals.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Exotic Animal Carcasses Hunted by Exploiters Seeking Trophies

A barn stands on the property from where exotic animals escaped a wildlife preserve in Zanesville, Ohio. Photo by Jay LaPrete/Getty Images(ZANESVILLE, Ohio) -- People hoping to profit from the death of nearly 50 exotic animals that escaped from a farm in Zanesville, Ohio, after the preserve owner shot and killed himself have been contacting the sheriff's office, interested in taking the animals to a taxidermist.

"We've gotten calls and e-mails about what [is] going to happen to the animals...could they be obtained for these types of things," said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz. "There's a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to get these animals."

But Lutz is cracking down.

The location of the 49 animals buried on the property has not been disclosed, Lutz said, adding, "Anybody caught on that property looking for it will be charged with criminal trespassing."

Earlier this week officers stopped a group of people from stealing the dead body of a lion.

"They were taken into custody," Lutz said.

Marion Thompson, the widow of farm owner Terry Thompson -- Terry was found dead in the driveway after shooting himself and setting his animals free -- is now manning the property, watching out for thieves.

"Hopefully nobody would be that morbid that they will want to go to do that," said Lutz. "I can guarantee you one thing, if it does happen we will pursue them to the greatest length to charge them."

Thompson's wife, he said, is "very distraught" about the loss of her husband and animals, many of which "were like kids to her," Lutz said. "She probably spent more time with these animals than some parents do spend with their kids."

Officers avoided a potentially catastrophic disaster, using pistols and high-powered rifles to take down nearly 50 of the dangerous animals. Only one animal remains unaccounted for -- a macaque monkey that Lutz says was probably eaten by a large cat.

It's unclear where preserve owner Terry Thompson found his menagerie of exotics.

"I've heard that some were rescues," Lutz said. "I've heard that some were bought at auction."

Officers didn't find any evidence that Thompson had been trying to breed them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Exotic Animal Laws Vary from State to State

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Incidents involving exotic animals kept in private may appear to be an oddity but, according to Born Free USA, a national animal advocacy and wildlife organization, they are not rare.

In fact, this week's incident in Ohio could be a cautionary tale for states across the country.

"It's up to the states to pass strong laws prohibiting the citizens that live there from keeping these dangerous exotics," said Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. "Ohio is one of the bad actors as far as we're concerned -- a state that has very limited regulations on the keeping of exotic animals, especially as pets....We've been pushing in Ohio for them to change their law for many years."

Some states are playing catch-up as exotic animals have become more prevalent, said David Favre, a professor of animal law at Michigan State University.

"The animals are becoming more available -- Internet sales, auctions, things like that," he said. "The market for exotic animals has been growing and with that, of course, comes the damage as well."

Born Free USA estimated that there are more tigers in private hands, not including accredited zoos, in the U.S. than there are left in the wild in the entire world.

"The ease of access to these animals is astounding and, of course, they are reasonably affordable," Roberts told ABC News. "Some of the animals could go for a few hundred dollars, some for a few thousand, but I think there are probably purebred dogs that cost more from some places than a tiger in this country."

Since 1990, Born Free USA said, there have been more than 1,500 incidents involving exotic animals and at least five percent of those have taken place in Ohio.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland banned people from bringing more exotic animals into Ohio in January but allowed owners to keep the animals they already had.

Current Gov. John Kasich let the emergency ban expire in April and opted to convene a group to study the issue.

"Around the country, you have a patchwork of state laws where about 21 states have some sort of prohibition on the keeping of exotic animals as pets," Roberts said. "Eight states have a partial ban, where certain species are prohibited, but not others. Thirteen states require permitting or a license scheme, and the other eight states have little or no regulations whatsoever. And Ohio is in the bottom category."

Despite the disparity in regulation, Favre said, the responsibility to control the animals lies with the states, not the federal government.

"It clearly is a primarily state issue," Favre said. "And it's so easily handled at the state level with the simple passage of a one-page law that says you're prohibited from having large mammals."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio