Outlier hazard: wild animals on the loose

I’m very saddened to hear about what’s going on in Zanesville, Ohio, where the owner of a large number of exotic animals set the animals free and then took his own life.  About 30 of the animals escaped the property and were threatening the community; law enforcement officers almost unilaterally put the animals down (more coverage at USA Today, CNN).

Sadly, containing or capturing these animals wasn’t feasible, and there was an imminent threat of these animals attacking.  Tigers, cheetahs, wolves, monkeys, lions and bears were among the animals that escaped.  Residents were advised to shelter in place, and some schools were closed while the situation is being dealt with.

To add to the chaos, it doesn’t sound like there is a good way to deal with the bodies of the animals that were put down, so at least some have been left lying where they died and people have been arrested trying to steal the bodies, presumably for their fur or other body parts.

This is a tragic loss of life, and seems utterly surreal to read about, but USA Today notes,

Ohio has some of the nation’s weakest restrictions on exotic pets and among the highest number of injuries and deaths caused by them. The Humane Society of the United States has documented 22 incidents with dangerous exotic animals in Ohio since 2003, demonstrating risks to public health and safety and animal welfare.

At least it seems like there have been no casualties aside from the animals and the owner himself.  It will be interesting to see the aftermath of this unusual incident.  This was not an unknown hazard to Zanesville, but this certainly doesn’t seem like it would be at the top of anyone’s list to prepare for.


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