Ohio officials have returned two leopards, two macaques and a bear to the widow of a man who last October released 56 exotic animals near Zanesville and then killed himself.
Now, despite public statements from zoo employees that they believe these animals should not be returned to Marian Thompson and though there is no provision in Ohio law to monitor the welfare of these animals once they are in Thompson's custody, the Ohio Department of Agriculture says it has exhausted its authority in the case.
There is nothing it can do. It cannot even require Thompson to improve the conditions on her property to ensure a better quality of life for the animals.
Shifting the burden to the local level, a spokeswoman for the agriculture department said the Humane Society, with help from the local prosecutor, could step in if there was an investigation into animal cruelty.
It is a shame Ohio officials and politicians are unwilling to make the changes necessary to protect exotic animals - and the public - but are perfectly willing to lay responsibility on dedicated animal welfare workers and local prosecutors who may not be especially prepared to deal with leopards and macaques. Ohio lawmakers must strengthen the state's laws before more animals - or humans - pay the price.