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Killing of escaped animals said necessary

Oct. 20, 2011 at 7:43 PM

ZANESVILLE, Ohio, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- One of the exotic animals released by an Ohio man who may have been deeply in debt is believed to have attacked him after he shot himself, police said.

Authorities said only a single macaque remained unaccounted for, out of the 56 animals involved in the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office hunt after they were released Tuesday by Terry Thompson from his 73-acre farm, the Zanesville (Ohio) Times Recorder reported Thursday.

Preliminary results show Thompson died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head after he opened the cages for all of his animals, and also had a bite would on his head, probably from a lion or tiger, Sheriff Matt Lutz said.

Forty-nine of the animals were killed by officers and were buried on Thompson's property.

"My officers took absolutely no pleasure in shooting the animals," Lutz said. "They have to go home to their wives and children and explain why they shot a Bengal tiger or a bear."

Six animals -- including a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys -- were taken to the Columbus Zoo, where Jack Hanna, zoo director emeritus, said Lutz had no choice but to give the order to shoot those animals killed.

"There was no other way to handle this situation," Hanna said. "Wild animals can be trained, not tamed.

"This could have been a complete disaster and the sheriff's office did their duty."

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