Columbus, OH — The Columbus Zoo was trying on Thursday to stop a woman from reclaiming three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear that have been cared for by the zoo since her husband freed dozens of exotic animals at their farm and killed himself.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium said it took the six surviving animals with Marian Thompson's permission but has no legal rights to the animals. It said her lawyers notified the zoo that she will reclaim the beasts, possibly as early as Thursday.
Attorneys who have represented Thompson were not available for comment Thursday morning, according to their office.
The zoo has contacted state and federal agencies in search of a way to keep the animals in its care, said Patty Peters, vice president of community relations.
"It's appealing to everybody to try to see if there's anything anybody can do," she said.
Ohio has some of the nation's weakest restrictions on exotic pets, and efforts to strengthen the regulations have taken on new urgency since Terry Thompson opened the cages at his eastern Ohio farm near Zanesville last week, freeing four dozen animals that were later shot by authorities. Officers were ordered to kill the animals - including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears - instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and later regain consciousness.
It's not clear if Marian Thompson plans to take the surviving animals back to the farm or to an alternate location, said Muskingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz, whose office isn't taking a stance on whether the creatures should return to Zanesville.
"If she wants to bring them back here, to this farm, then we're working on what we're allowed legally to do to make sure that everything is safe and appropriate," Lutz said.
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