No Tranq-Guns in Ohio

 Rosana Escobar Brown

The recent slaying of about 50 exotic animals in Ohio has animal lovers (like myself) in an uproar.  While it is obvious that law enforcement officials needed to protect the safety of local residents and also had to follow orders, images of the grizzly scene beg the question…

How could this have been avoided?

For starters, the Ohio police could have had more than a few tranquilizer guns lying around; especially out there in farm country where loose animals pose a real problem.  Ohio even has laws about mandatory reporting obligations when exotic animals escape.  Does this mean that whenever receiving a report that an animal is loose, the authorities just show up guns blazing?  Something is very off here.

I understand the arguments that tranquilizers take time to have effect and animals might still become enraged or walk off and harm somebody.  But then again if residents were ordered to stay inside their homes, then what was the harm of following the animals for a short time when there weren’t any homes for 1000 meters and beyond that the landscape was nothing but rural farmland.  With all the officers and pick-up trucks at the scene, they certainly had both the man and vehicle power to get it done.

Although, underlying all of this talk about the incident itself sits the state of the law in Ohio.  That exotic, endangered animals are even allowed to be kept as unregistered, unlicensed pets is ludicrous, and the fact that the owner had been repetitively complained about, investigated, and even convicted of animal cruelty without having his animals removed bewilders me.  If there is one good thing that comes out of this terrible tragedy, it is that legislation on the issue is likely near and will be supported by the Ohio voting public.

But hey, if we can’t find comfort in possible proposed legislation, perhaps we could take solace in knowing that at least Ohio carrier pidgeons are safe from harm.[1]  Sheesh.


[1] Ohio Code Annotated § 959.18 titled “Prohibition against killing a carrier pidgeon” makes it unlawful to “shoot, kill, maim, entrap, catch, or detain” a marked pidgeon.  While the rarest animals on the planet enjoy no protection, at least the flying rodents of New York do. Whew, that’s something Ohio.

6 Responses

  1. well, you had me with you right up until your last comment, I’ve got a problem with the “some animals are more equal than others” theory of animal protection. That assumes that humans are justified in deciding who among other species is worthy of life and who isn’t. That kind of anthropocentricism is at the heart of *all* animal abuse and exploitation — canned pigeon hunts, hysteria over feral cats and the meat industry, as well as the Zanesville atrocity. Yes, I appreciate the endangered species aspect of Zanesville, but species become endangered in large part because humans, either (a) decide they like the taste, medicinal value, or look of some part of an animal, or (b) take the animal’s habitat without any consideration of the animals’ interest in living there — in other words, because any human use is considered more important than the animals’ interest in living. So if some use is ever found for today’s flying rodent, it may become tomorrow’s passenger pigeon and bye bye birdie. My point is unless we change the basic way we think about *sentient* animals (i.e. get rid of their property status), we’ll never make any real changes in how they are treated. (I’m sure the pigeon law gets very little actual enforcement until someone influential loses their prize carrier pigeon or something). We can pass damage control legislation up the wazoo but where there’s market demand and where animals are property there will always be atrocities like this one. And species will continue to become endangered, maybe even the ones we take for granted now, because there is no shift away from our basic attitude towards the rest of animal species: that might is right.

    As to the rest of your post, it’s the sanest thing I’ve read on Zanesville. It boggles the mind how, more and more, lethal measures are touted as the “only” way to deal with any problematic animal, even where other measures *should* exist, and be used. That sort of proves my above point: even being endangered doesn’t trump human prerogative to reach for the gun when any lame excuse is found (especially “THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!” the catch-all excuse for killing inconvenient or dangerous beings). Unfortunately, that attitude doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it exists in the same mindset that says a pigeon or feral cat or wolf (recent delisting noted) isn’t worthy of life.

    (note: carrier pigeons are actually not quite the same as NYC “flying rodents”. The latter are usually rock pigeons, carrier pigeons are derived from them, and are domesticated.)

  2. I found this incident very troubling because they had cages, etc. These animals should have been tranquillized, temporarily housed in their enclosures and found sanctuaries or zoos as last resort for them. What was done shows how little we value animal life other than the human kind, “civilization” is anything but civilized!

  3. I echo 99% of Rosana’s post and 100% of Lorien’s observations about our treatment of animals.

    An additional thought: remember who owns all that open space — all that farmland. Oh, yes, farmers.

    And farmers own — what? Oh, yes, “livestock.”

    And livestock are — what? Oh, yes, “property.”

    And that domesticated “property” is more valuable than the escaped-from-captivity tigers and lions and monkeys. Why?

    Because the “livestock” “property” can be sold. Oh, yes, “a profit.” A profit for humans, at the expense of the animals.

    So here we go again, back to the money. Always the money. Economics trumps ethics. Economics trumps everything!

    As lust for greenbacks slowly poisons our good green earth and its innocent inhabitants, a single sentence spoken 2,000 years ago reminds us of the reason humans refuse to relinquish the designation of animals as “property”: “For the love of money is the root of all evil….” (I Tim 6:10 KJV).

  4. Armchair quarter-backing, going on here, I think.
    This situation unfolded quickly, and was unprecidented in scope and circumstance. Being set up to deal with the occassional deer or native black bear wandering to somebody’s apple orchard is not even remotely the same thing as having to manage the sundden apperacnce of numerous exotic apex predators in a pastoral landscape.
    There simply was not time to wait around for the number and type of tranqilizers that would have been needed.
    It’s might be convient to pick things apart from a distance. But being in close proximity with such creatures, even when one has a firearm, is perilous.
    Having had extensive experience with firearms myself, and having talked in person with people who have had to shoot grizzly bears in self-defence, I know that placing a killing shot into so powerful an animal before it has to opportunity to close the distance and maul you is a tenious proposal at best.
    The deaths of these creatures is sickening, but lethal force proably really was the only option.
    I see a clear problem and clear blame.
    The problem is that society allows the possession of such animals in captivity to begin with. I do not agree with it. It is my staunch opinon that, for reasons of human safety and out respect for the natural world and these creatures, they should live wild and free only.
    That, we can correct.
    The blame lies squarely with the person who, before taking his own life, had the cruel audacity to simply throw these animals to their fate, while putting numerous people in danger.
    That, I think, is now between him and the Creator of us all.

  5. Hal 9000: noted, and yes none of us was there, facing the music so to speak. However this man’s “zoo” was well known, as was his temperment (he’d apparently previously threatened to release the animals). So there’s at least a question as to why the officers didn’t have a plan A in place, and if they did, and this was it, why it was immediately lethal force for all of the animals.
    I grew up around hunters and spent a lot of time in pretty wild areas (i’m old- there’s not much wild left). I know that the officers were up against something unprecedented and scary. It doesn’t relieve us (or them) of questioning their solution, especially as lethal solutions are often applied in situations where, unlike here to give the benefit of the doubt, they clearly are not warranted.

    However I think we all agree that the *real* problem here was that these animals should never have been “owned” by this man in the first place, and never should have been in Ohio. Unlike you, I don’t see a clear cut solution to this. Make laws outlawing it and you’ll hear a lot of howls about private property rights, (and ultimately a black market). At least this incident will have some persuasive force, until people forget about it. I don’t see any easy solutions where animal interests clash with human interests. Wish I did.

    As to Thompson, he’s kind of irrelevant at this point.

  6. […] Virginia haven’t had exotic animal permits or any other type of regulation. Following the incident, Ohio suspended the law and began pushing for exotic animal regulation. Share […]

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