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Sheriff's deputies shot nearly 50 wild animals - including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions - in a big-game hunt across the state's countryside on Wednesday after the owner of an exotic-animal park threw their cages open and committed suicide in what may have been one last act of spite against his neighbors and police.
As homeowners nervously hid indoors, officers armed with high-powered rifles and shoot-to-kill orders fanned out through fields and woods to hunt down 56 animals that had been turned loose from the Muskingum County Animal Farm by owner Terry Thompson before he shot himself to death on Tuesday.
Sheriff's Deputy Jonathan Merry was among the first to respond on Tuesday.
He said he shot a number of animals, including a gray wolf and a black bear.
There are only about 1,400 of the endangered cats left in the world, he said.
Persons in the state possessing non-domestic animals do not need to obtain a permit.' Mr Hanna defended the sheriff's decision to kill the animals but said the deaths of the Bengal tigers were especially tragic.
But Thompson had appeared on the Rachael Ray Show in 2008 as an animal handler for a zoologist guest, said show spokeswoman Lauren Nowell.'I wrote a letter to Heidi Klum's people.
I strongly voiced my opinion that if they're going to hire animals for entertainment, they might want to check handlers' backgrounds - that Terry Thompson had been convicted of animal cruelty. The sheriff's office started getting calls on Tuesday evening that wild animals were loose just west of Zanesville.
Parents were warned to keep children and pets indoors.
And flashing signs along highways told motorists, 'Caution exotic animals' and 'Stay in vehicle.'Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquillizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness.