No USDA investigation expected in leopard's death


COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday it has no plans to further investigate the death of a spotted leopard held under a state-issued quarantine at an Ohio zoo after an exotic animal escape. Spokesman Dave Sacks said the agency sees it as a closed matter.

A Columbus zookeeper was moving the leopard between enclosures in late January when it unexpectedly turned back and got caught under a door that was being lowered. The leopard was injured, and the state veterinarian decided to euthanize it.

The leopard was one of six surviving exotic animals being cared for by the zoo after their owner freed them and several other animals last fall, then committed suicide. The other five -- two leopards, two primates and a bear -- remain at the zoo, though their future there is uncertain. Police killed dozens of other animals after they were freed by the owner.

A USDA inspector cited the Columbus zoo in February for improper handling of the leopard and for not having enough trained staff present for shifting the animal.

A recently released USDA report regarding a follow-up inspection in March shows the zoo has properly addressed those issues.

Also Thursday, a TV station obtained a 2008 video that provides glimpses into the lives of the exotic animals while owned by Terry Thompson of Zanesville. Thompson, apparently despondent over his marriage and debt, released them before committing suicide. Police responding to the property in rural Ohio as night fell were forced to kill 48 animals, including 18 endangered Bengal tigers.

The video shows a bear being fed, as well as shots of a caged monkey, and caged lions, tigers and a black leopard. It also shows several guns, as well as several guitars. Thompson had taught himself to play guitar as an adult.

WBNS-TV reported the video was obtained when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents executed a search warrant on Thompson's property in June 2008.

It's unclear if any of the animals were among those police killed last October.

At the time of his death Thompson had only been home a few weeks after spending a year in prison on a gun conviction.

Ownership of exotic animals became a hot topic in Ohio after the killings, and lawmakers have moved to tightly regulate the animals.

On Wednesday, the state Senate passed a bill banning new ownership of monkeys, lions and other exotic animals. Gov. John Kasich, the Columbus Zoo, and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation support the measure.

The bill would ban new ownership of dangerous exotic animals but allow current owners to keep their animals by obtaining a new state-issued permit by 2014 and meeting other strict conditions. Facilities accredited by some national zoo groups would be exempt from the bill, along with sanctuaries and research institutions.


Information from: WBNS-TV,