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Zoo Director: Keeping Exotic Animals Not Uncommon

DETROIT (WWJ) – An Ohio official said a a wolf and a monkey were the only animals still running looseWednesday afternoon after escaping from an exotic-animal preserve east of Columbus. The farm owner apparently opened cages that housed dozens of dangerous animals and then shot himself.

Sheriff’s deputies shot nearly 50 lions, tigers and other beasts across the Ohio countryside after the owner of a wild-animal park threw their cages open and shot himself.

Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan said they’re finding more and more cases of exotic animals living in non-standard habitats.

He told WWJ’s Ron Dewey that as tragic as the events in Zanesville may be, it’s not that uncommon for people to keep wild animals. Kagan said the Detroit Zoo has been rescuing animals from such “preserves” for decades.

“The latest, in terms of dangerous animals, is three lions we rescued from a junkyard in Kansas. It was about a year and a half ago, I think,” said Kagan. “I believe that person also had a couple of tigers and they went on to another place.”

Locally, Kagan said they took in a lion about 18 years ago that was being used to guard a crack house in Detroit.

Kagan said this latest incident in Ohio demonstrates why keeping wild animals should be left to the professionals like those at the Detroit Zoo.

“We have a special team that’s trained with darting animals. You know, there’s just a huge infrastructure, and if somebody isn’t feeling well or has some psychological problems, there are other people that will notice that and immediately step in,” said Kagan.

“We have many layers of protection and that’s what you need,” he said.

Coincidentally, Kagan was in Lansing Wednesday to join those testifying against a bill that would relax state regulations for keeping wild animals.

Meantime, the story out of Zanesville has stirring up strong emotions in WWJ listeners.

Myron Melkonian, a passionate animal lover from Dearborn Heights, called newsroom after he heard that many of the animals were killed.

“This is really upsetting right now … I’m angry,” said Melkonian. “Why do people do that then? We have to take them against their will, abuse them, keep them caged. Leave them alone!”

– More on this story, here.

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