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America's Animal Hoarder: Trouble at the Zoo (2012)

How 48 wild animals belonging to a private collector in Zanesville, Ohio, were found roaming in a residential area and had to be killed by the police.

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William Gaminara ...
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How 48 wild animals belonging to a private collector in Zanesville, Ohio, were found roaming in a residential area and had to be killed by the police.

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9 August 2012 (UK)  »

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An intensely interesting story of what happened when one man's obsession with dangerous animals spiralled out of control
12 October 2012 | by See all my reviews

As this documentary began I almost thought I was watching a joke, as the events described sounded so strange and outlandish. But no, it was the startling true story of the late Mr Terry Thompson, a Vietnam veteran of Zanesville Ohio, who kept a total of 56 wild creatures in his backyard, a practise perfectly legal in that particular state of America. He set them free one day shortly before shooting himself. Havoc ensued. The authorities were forced to shoot 48 of the creatures-18 tigers, 6 black bears, 2 grizzly bears, 2 wolves, 1 macaque monkey, 1 baboon, 3 mountain lions, 9 male lions and 8 lionesses-before the situation could be brought under control. Only six animals survived to be taken to a local zoo. This documentary tells of the events in Thompson's life that led up to the disaster, and includes interviews with the officers involved, neighbours, and a veterinarian that was called to the scene. I found this to be an extremely interesting and engrossing documentary, but I think it could be a bit too upsetting if you're some kind of big animal lover.:::2::: Okay, I'm not a big fan of the rotten, smug power-mad kind of coppers, but the guys involved here didn't seem like trigger-happy grunts who were having a good time with a once-in-a-lifetime safari hunt-of course there were bound to have been a few bad apples, but for the most part the men that were talking seemed genuinely remorseful and some were even visibly upset. There was one officer in particular who was interviewed a lot who kept having to stop mid-speech to try and regain his composure because he kept almost starting to cry. I know this whole sorry tale is no laughing matter, but this guy, he was stifling sobs, and the lip was wobbling, and it became something hilariously awkward and weird to watch, because they just had the camera on this guy for way too long! A very riveting part of the documentary is when we get to hear a few choice phone calls that were made to the police department at the time from some very upset and angry people who all seemed to blame the police. I understand why they were so mad, it was a very horrible situation, but the police's hands were tied. People were at risk, anyone with half a wit could see that they had no choice. At first they did try to contain them on the farm until the vet could arrive and tranquilise them, but when they sent some people in to try and find Mr Thompson and find out what had happened to him, they discovered that he had cut the wires on all the fences-so that even if they had managed to stun the beasts and get them back in their cages they still wouldn't have been secured. It was the vet herself who at that point told them to shoot on sight, because there was just no other way around it. Such a sad outcome, one which the poor animals should have never even been in...:::3::: I don't like to bad-mouthing dead people as it's really not me and unfair, but it made me so mad how thoroughly it was all this man's fault. And he didn't seem like a particularly nice human being in some police videos and "home movies" that we get to see. To me he really came off as a stubborn old loon who thought he was invincible and arrogant in believing he could handle all that he was. He had previously obsessively collected guns and cars, so to me odds are that the animals were nothing more to him than his latest hobby. And the animals didn't even look very happy or well looked after either, they were kept in tiny filthy cages and a lot of them looked so undernourished. Also some of them looked crazed, just pacing around the same spot. It was plain cruelty for an animal the size of a lion to be confined in such a small space like that. Surely the police could have put a stop to the situation after the first issue they had with his animals escaping, which apparently some of them did a couple of times. They visited him on a regular basis to check on the animals and make sure they were confined. It was so obviously an accident waiting to happen. Those animals could have been moved to zoos or wildlife parks at any time. I thought the man was a real b*****d for letting the animals out before killing himself. He didn't need to do that, he could have just left them alone and somebody would have found them soon enough. He went out of his way to do that, he knew exactly what was going to happen-create a big ugly mess for everyone else to clean up. He didn't give a s**t about those animals, he just left them to die as a final f**k you to the world. I liked the neighbour who seemed like the closest thing Mr Thompson had to a friend apart from his wife who had abandoned him. He was quite a country "good old boy" character and very funny to listen to. A number of times during the programme people happened to say "lions and tigers and bears" in a sentence. It was a guilty relief when he turned out to be the guy who finally added "oh my!" The man goes on to say that he once asked his buddy why he liked to collect so many exotic pets, and he replied: "because I can." Yeah, 48 animals ended up dead just because you could. What a waste. So many beautiful animals lost because of one stupid old man's greed...


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