MSNBC to air show on 2011 exotic animal incident

Jane BeathardI just previewed an excellent British-produced documentary about the October 2011 incident in Muskingum County that resulted in new legislation to control the ownership of exotic wildlife in Ohio.

"Shoot to Kill: The Ohio Animal Massacre" will air at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 11, on MSNBC. It is the first episode of a new series entitled Maximum Drama that gives an in-depth look at major news stories from recent years.

I loaded my preview DVD with apprehension. After all, the title seemed to imply a bias against Sheriff Matt Lutz and the deputies who euthanized 48 lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other carnivores on the night of Oct. 18, after their owner, Terry Thompson, freed his menagerie then committed suicide.

But my fears were groundless. The film gives a fair and balanced account of what led Thompson to set his animals free and how local law enforcement authorities were forced to deal with the aftermath.

"Shoot to Kill" includes never-before-seen video of the chaotic scene deputies encountered when they arrived at Thompson's farm. It also includes interviews with Thompson's friends and neighbors who describe the man as a "hoarder," not only of exotic animals, but also of cars and guns.

Other interviews with deputies, police dispatchers, and a wildlife veterinarian who rushed to the farm show the emotional toll suffered by those who were forced to destroy the creatures. One deputy is near tears as he recounts shooting a bear to keep it from breaching a barrier fence. The vet describes the ineffectiveness of her tranquilizer gun against a charging tiger.

Footage is frequently graphic and raw. I was surprised to see how close the City of Zanesville lies to the Thompson farm. I was not surprised to learn Thompson's body was partially consumed by a lion before deputies arrived. It appears he planned to be eaten by his freed "pets."

This show is well worth seeing. But it's not for the squeamish nor is it for children. Watch it yourself and decide if first responders had any choice but to "Shoot to Kill." 

Categories: Ohio – Jane Beathard

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