Lions and tigers and bears, oh my

I normally do not address political platforms on this blog, and I very rarely address anything in the news. That was not my intent when I started sharing my thoughts on these pages in the Spring of 2010. It has been, and always will be, a place for me to journal my thoughts on any given day so that I can go back from time to time and see where I was and where I am headed on this path. Some posts are so personal they are never published for all to see. But most are cataloged by the month and year just to the right of where you are reading now. And I do appreciate the fact that you are reading, first timers and regulars alike as I give my take on one of the biggest news stories that Central Ohio has ever seen.

A few years ago there was a report of a mountain lion loose in Gahanna, Ohio. It had been reported less than a mile from the home I shared with my ex wife and children. A day turned to two, then three, and so on and the reports continued to pour in. We kept the kids inside and jumped up every time we heard the crackling of leaves or whistling of the wind outside. It was a tense week with little sleep before the authorities announced that the threat was over. Whether there was a lion or not we may never know. But it was the only time in my life I ever considered buying a fire arm.

Fast forward to this week. As news that the exotic animal farm in Zanesville, Ohio had released a modern day Jumanji on Muskingum and Licking Counties, I sat glued to the TV. I am very familiar with this area and this farm and was stunned when the details of this escape were revealed. The owner of this private zoo had released the 18 Bengal Tigers, 17 Lions and 21 other animals into the surrounding area. Knowing several people who live within a mile or two there, I decided to watch this story very closely.

As more details emerged, we learned that there were a number of agencies involved with trying to get a handle on this situation. Sheriffs from several counties, along with The Ohio State Highway Patrol, and The Ohio Department of Wildlife joined officials from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds as they searched through the night. They had to make the pain staking decision to shoot to kill these animals who, through no fault of their own, posed an incredible danger to the nearby neighborhoods of Zanesville as well as the rural farms in nearby Licking County.  As Sheriff Matt Lutz and Columbus Zoo Director Emeritus Jack Hanna explained that as horrific as that plan of attack sounded, there was no other option. A very sad realization when you have so many endangered animals involved. But as Mr. Hanna said, the loss of human life would be more of a tragic outcome than what they already faced. In all, 49 of the 56 animals were put down. 6 were captured and sent on to the Columbus zoo, while the last one was attacked and killed by one of the larger cats.

Of course I would not write a blog just to recap the story we all have seen on the news dozens of times in the last three days. But rather to address the uproar that this has caused from all over the world. There are a lot of different opinions out there about what happened here. Everyone seems to agree that if the laws against owning an exotic animals were more stringent this whole issue situation could have been averted. Mr. Thompson would not have had these animals if this were the case. And I agree with that. What I cannot agree with is the outcry from those who say these creatures should have been captured and sent to the zoo to a preserve.

Imagine for a moment that you were a person who was on the front lines of this search. And you were within feet of a 300 pound Bengal Tiger. In the dark. In the rain. And it is hungry, scared, and ready to attack. Would you have time to call for someone who is trained in taking care of this animal? Would you take the chance of shooting it with a tranquilizer which may not work, only to have it more agitated and within striking distance? Or would you protect your life, knowing that even a swipe of his gigantic paw could kill you in a second. If that wasn't enough, imagine you live nearby. And that you walk out onto your front porch in the morning to grab your paper. There, standing in front of you, is a 600 pound black bear He is looking at you like you have butter and syrup dripping from your body. Are you going to toss a net on him, load him up in your grocery getter and say hey, let's get you to the zoo?

The point is simply this. The men and women who were out ton the front lines of this wild, chaotic night, did the what they had to do to protect themselves and the citizens of Muskingum and Licking counties. And while the loss of these animals is a tragedy felt through the animal lovers community worldwide, it was an unavoidable end to a preventable problem. I myself am a huge animal lover. I would stop on the side of the expressway to help a wounded dog to safety. But I also would not hesitate to put him down if he posed an immediate risk to one of my children. That is my responsibility as a father. And what they did was their responsibility as law enforcement officers.

Governor of Ohio John Kasich today pushed through new, tougher laws regarding people having these types of animals as pets. I can only say that is one human and fifty animal lives too late Mr. Governor. While no one could have imagined Terry Thompson doing what he did, the lack of action by our state government allowed this situation to develop in the first place. I guess you were too busy trying to make sure the police and firefighters can't collectively bargain to notice the pot that boiled over the other night in Zanesville. Fortunately for you, those same police saved your ass on Monday night, when Mt. Perry road was turned into an African Safari.

Political commentary done, back to normal tomorrow:)

Good Night All

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