REYNOLDSBURG (AP) -- The five surviving animals from an exotic animal escape in October will remain under quarantine at an Ohio zoo until at least Friday, April 27, but it's unclear what will happen to them after that.
The Columbus zoo began caring for three leopards, two primates and a bear after their suicidal owner released dozens of animals last year that had to be killed by authorities near Zanesville in eastern Ohio. One leopard was euthanized after it was struck by a door at the zoo.
The owner's widow, Marian Thompson, had sought to reclaim the surviving animals in late October. But the Ohio Department of Agriculture ordered that they be kept in quarantine. Ohio law allows the state veterinarian to quarantine animals while investigating reports of potentially dangerous diseases.
The observation period for whether the animals have rabies ends on Friday, said agriculture spokeswoman Erica Pitchford. She couldn't say what would happen next to the animals.
The quarantine order does not expire then, Pitchford said, but the observation period is the remaining test of the quarantine order.
Officials said at the time of the order that they were concerned about reports that the animals lived in unsanitary conditions where they could be exposed to disease. The order prevents the zoo from releasing the animals until it's clear they're free of dangerous diseases.
The animals underwent physical exams, X-rays and blood testing in March, and the state veterinarian received and reviewed the results on Monday.
The agriculture department said in a statement that the review indicated that all five surviving animals are free of the dangerously contagious or infectious diseases for which they were tested. The department said the animals will remain under quarantine at the zoo for continued observation for signs of rabies, which the agency said could only be confirmed after an animal is dead.
"No determinations regarding the status of the quarantine will be made before the observation period has concluded," the statement read.
Pitchford said the standard observation period for the animals is six months, which ends Friday.
Owner Terry Thompson freed bears, lions, endangered Bengal tigers and other animals on Oct. 18 before killing himself. Authorities were forced to kill 48 of the creatures as they moved into the community.
The release and killings focused attention on Ohio's exotic pet restrictions, which are among the weakest in the nation.
The medical results come as Marian Thompson has demanded a hearing to appeal the quarantine order. She had sought medical testing to prove the animals don't need to be quarantined.
Thompson appeared Monday at her scheduled appeal hearing in Reynoldsburg in suburban Columbus, but attorneys delayed testimony in the case until April 30.
She declined to speak to reporters after the brief morning hearing.
The widow's lawyer said in an email Monday afternoon that the results substantiate what the widow as maintained since the quarantine was issued on Oct. 27.
Attorney Robert McClelland said the hearing was pushed back until next week to give all parties time to look over the evidence. He said the state could terminate the quarantine order prior to next Monday's hearing. Otherwise, state officials will then have to prove the order should remain in place.
A state-appointed lawyer who would oversee the administrative appeal hearing has between 30 and 45 days to render a report about the quarantine order. Any final decision would be made by the state's agriculture director. Thompson could also appeal that decision.