2011 Zanesville, Ohio animal escape

Coordinates: 39°56′48″N 82°03′45″W / 39.9466772°N 82.0625522°W / 39.9466772; -82.0625522
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The 2011 Zanesville, Ohio animal escape occurred on October 18, 2011, when the owner of Muskingum County Animal Farm released multiple exotic animals before dying by suicide. 48 animals were subsequently killed by law enforcement.


2011 Zanesville, Ohio animal escape
39°56′48″N 82°03′45″W / 39.9466772°N 82.0625522°W / 39.9466772; -82.0625522
Date closedOctober 2011
LocationMuskingum County, Ohio, United States

Muskingum County Animal Farm was a private zoo located in Zanesville, Ohio, United States.

The animal farm had been repeatedly reported for inadequate and unsafe housing for the animals, as well as insufficient water and food. Neighbors had previously complained of animals escaping "improper fencing" and causing damage to neighboring property.[1]

The escape[edit]

On October 18, 2011, owner Terry Thompson allegedly set free 50 of his 56 exotic animals before taking his own life by shooting himself in the head. Lions, tigers, bears and wolves were among the animals that escaped and were hunted by local law enforcement out of fear for public safety.[2]

Forty-eight animals were killed by the local police while two were presumed eaten by the other animals.[3][4] The animals confirmed to be dead were eighteen bengal tigers, six black bears, two grizzly bears, two wolves, one macaque monkey, one baboon, three mountain lions, and seventeen african lions (nine males and eight females).[4] Three leopards, a small grizzly bear, and two monkeys were left caged inside Thompson's home. These animals were tranquilized and sent to the Columbus Zoo.[5]


Terry Thompson, a Vietnam War veteran, was a lifelong collector of exotic animals. He had acted as an animal handler on Wild Kingdom in 2008, and provided a lion cub to a photoshoot with Heidi Klum.[6] In the years leading up to his death, he went to prison on federal gun charges, was heavily in debt, and his wife had left him.[7]


Jack Hanna, TV wildlife expert and Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo, lamented the killings but deemed the police actions necessary.[8] Ohio governor John Kasich called for a temporary moratorium on the sale of exotic animals.[4]

In August 2012, the United Kingdom's Channel 4 broadcast a documentary on the animal release called America's Animal Hoarder: Horror at the Zoo, featuring footage of Thompson's animals and interviews with those who brought the situation under control.[9]

Season 3, Episode 2 of Fatal Attractions focuses on Terry's life and the events leading to the escape.

The Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness references the event in Episode 1 of Season 1. It includes footage of the escape and reactions from other private owners of exotic animals.[10]


  1. ^ Lynch, Rene (October 21, 2011). "Exotic Animals Endured Abuse, Neglect at Ohio farm, Documents Say". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  2. ^ "Ohio Sheriff: Only One Monkey Remains Missing". CBS News. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  3. ^ Muskal, Michael (January 18, 2012). "Ohio Farmer Spoke of Troubles Before Freeing Exotic Animals". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Leckrone, Jim (October 19, 2011). "Ohio Governor to Sign Order on 'Dangerous Animals'". Reuters. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  5. ^ "Bears, Tigers, Lions and Wolves Escape from Ohio Zoo". BBC. October 19, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  6. ^ "Heidi Klum Session Used Animal from Ohio Farm". CBS News. October 21, 2011. Retrieved April 17, 2024.
  7. ^ "Exotic Animal Owner Terry Thompson: What Happened?". People. October 22, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  8. ^ "Jack Hanna on Zanesville, Ohio, Animals: 'We Would Have Had Carnage'". ABC News. October 19, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  9. ^ [dead link]"America's Animal Hoarder: Horror at the Zoo". Channel 4. Retrieved October 21, 2015.
  10. ^ "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness | Netflix Official Site". www.netflix.com. Retrieved March 28, 2020.

Further reading[edit]