I am reeling with sadness. Although I understand the necessity to protect the public, I hurt beyond expression for the innocent animals that lost their lives after a distraught owner turned them loose and then killed himself.
Having worked in animal sanctuaries and as a wildlife rehabilitator I know that, with the right body language and attitude, a person known to the freed animals could probably have safely recaptured more than were captured but, in the heat of the incident, the only body language and attitudes the animals saw and felt were law enforcement officials on high alert ("predators out to get them") rather than "caretakers out to help them." The animals went into "fight or flight" mode as a result. That is what made them especially dangerous and unpredictable.
I don't know if there was anyone around that the animals knew, or could feel safe with, to step up to the plate and offer their services to "corral" them; if not, there was probably nothing else that could have been done once the folks with weapons arrived.
That's the tragedy. Something else could have been tried before the call was made to destroy the freed animals, but no one in charge seems to have known that. That was the first tragedy.
I'm not adamantly opposed to wild pets, but I am adamantly opposed to anyone who gets them for the wrong reasons and to anyone who won't do 110% right by them.
It's obvious that the wildlife owner in question had "issues" (a recent jail sentence among them) that signaled he should not be given a license to house large, dangerous wild animals (or even potentially dangerous domestic ones). But the rules are lax in Ohio, so apparently anyone can get a wild animal there. THAT'S WRONG!
Wild animals as pets are an unparalleled commitment, no matter how many other kinds of pets you may have owned before. Very few people who want them should have them. My guess is that less than 1/10 of 1% of the people who want them should get them, because most people have no clue what the commitment entails or how hard they'll have to work to do right by the animal they adopt.
Perhaps it was the costs and the responsibilities of owning so many animals that drove the Zanesville man to suicide; perhaps not. But turning them loose beforehand seems to indicate something darker and more sinister.
I don't think he was "freeing" the animals before he died. I think he may have been "loosing" them on the forces he considered responsible for his past and present misery: law enforcement officers.
Unhappily, the predictable happened. In the man versus beast realm, man always wins. Animals, innocent though they be—pawns in the game—always lose.
My heart cries out. Those lifeless, bloodied bodies haunt me.
Justice has not been served. Something wicked happened, but the folks who shot the animals out of concern for human welfare are victims, too; victims of an animal owner who betrayed his own creatures.
Kristine M. Smith is an animal behaviorist and advocate with decades of combined experience as a wildlife rehabilitator, captive animal caretaker and humane educator. Her newest book, SERVAL SON: Spots and Stripes Forever, is available at Amazon. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org