COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The widow of a suicidal animal owner who released dozens of exotic creatures last fall will get the five surviving animals back from an Ohio zoo today. And a friend says the woman plans to take the animals back to the farm in eastern Ohio where they previously lived.
Cyndi Huntsman said Thursday that Marian Thompson intends to return the animals to the Zanesville farm once she gets the two leopards, two primates and a bear back from the Columbus Zoo.
The animals have been held at the zoo since October under a state-issued quarantine order, which was lifted Monday.
Officials say five exotic animals will be returned today to Marian Thompson, the woman whose husband released dozens of wild creatures last fall before killing himself.
A statement from the zoo on Thursday said the animals would be transferred back to Thompson today.
Zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said animals would be loaded into the zoo's heavy steel crates, which she says would need to be moved with a forklift. The leopards and bear would be sedated to be placed in the crates, then awoken once loaded into Thompson's vehicle.
"We're using drugs that can be reversed, so that we know they are awake before they ever leave here," Peters said.
She said she doesn't expect the primates to be sedated.
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. Fearing for the public's safety, authorities killed 48 of the animals.
Three leopards, two Celebes macaques and a bear survived and were taken to the Columbus zoo after the release. One spotted leopard had to be euthanized at the zoo in January. The macaques are small primates; the female weighs about 6 pounds, and the male weighs more than 10 pounds.
Huntsman operates Stump Hill Farm near Massillon in northeast Ohio, which cares for and exhibits native and exotic animals ranging from tigers to coyotes to parrots. State officials had believed last fall that her farm could be a potential new home for Thompson's animals.
But the animals were never sent there. Huntsman said her property had been considered as a temporary home to give Thompson time to get her farm ready for the animals.
"She's told me that she has made improvements," Huntsman said in a telephone interview. "There was nothing wrong with the leopards' cages that they were in prior. She told me she got a perimeter fence around it. And they've all been cleaned."
State officials had issued the quarantine order because they said they were concerned about reports that the animals lived in unsanitary conditions where they could be exposed to disease.
Once the animals are returned to Thompson, nothing in Ohio law allows state officials to check on their welfare or require improvements to conditions in which they are kept.