Ohio Allows Exotic Animals to be Returned to Owner

By Mary Collins

May 1, 2012 Updated May 1, 2012 at 9:03 AM EDT

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio officials are clearing the way for the return of five surviving exotic animals to a woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall, then committed suicide.

The Ohio Agriculture Department announced the decision Monday at an agency hearing in which the state was to defend its authority to quarantine the animals on suspicion of infectious diseases.

That means the animals can be returned to Marian Thompson of Zanesville, though it's unclear when that might happen.

Marian Thompson is the widow of Terry Thompson, who released 56 animals — including black bears, mountain lions and Bengal tigers — from his eastern Ohio farm Oct. 18 before he committed suicide. Authorities killed 48 of the animals as a public safety measure. Three leopards, two primates and a bear survived and have been held at the Columbus zoo since then. One leopard had to be euthanized in January.

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