My Town Monday: Wild Animals in Ohio (legally)

Ohio was all over the national news last week, when a man in Zanesville released 56 exotic animals that he owned, then killed himself, leaving the animals to run amok and possibly hurt, or even kill someone. The debacle had an unfortunate end in that law enforcement had to kill 50 of the animals to ensure public safety. One of the questions raised was, why was this man able to keep these animals when he’d been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005?

Which raises another question: What happens to exotic animals when they’re removed from a bad situation like this?

A white tiger at the Heaven's Corner Zoo

One place they might go is Heaven’s Corner, a wild animal sanctuary located in West Alexandria, just a few miles west of Dayton.

Heaven’s Corner is a privately-owned, nonprofit, USDA-licensed zoo that houses over 150 wild and exotic mammals, reptiles, and birds. The organization’s primary purpose is rescue. Most of these animals were pets whose owners were unable to care for them  and either released them, or called for help (that little cub isn’t so cute when it grows up to be a tiger or bear that could rip a person apart!). These animals are often brought in by law enforcement or other state or local authorities. Sometimes, animals are dropped off at the sanctuary. Others came to Heaven’s Corner from other zoos that closed (usually due to lack of funding). These are animals that can’t be returned to their natural habitat for any of many reasons, and the staff of Heaven’s Corner strive to provide each animal with a safe, species-appropriate home where it’s properly cared for.

This Macaw also calls Heaven's Corner home

The other part of Heaven’s Corner’s mission is education. It’s open to the public, and often hosts school groups. I visited several years ago (time to go back!), and was fascinated to hear the stories behind many of the animals, which include several species of tigers, leopards, bears, tropical birds, snakes, and even crocodiles. It’s well worth a visit, and all admission fees go directly toward the care and feeding of the animals. They also accept donations via their website. They also have an active Facebook Page you can Like.

Last week’s unfortunate incident will undoubtedly result in new legislation limiting ownership of wild and exotic animals in Ohio. When new laws take effect, there will likely be plenty of owners who will surrender newly-illegal animals. When they do, Heaven’s Corner will be ready to help these animals find a new home – or provide them with one.

If you live in the area, have you ever been to Heaven’s Corner? If not, do you have an organization like this in your area? Does your state have animal incidents?

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14 Responses to \

  1. Hi, Jennette,

    This was a bizarre news item. Was this a private zoo?

    I sympathize with the animals that had to be put down. This is a different situation than we have here since those animals were not native to Ohio.

    We have a lot of wild animal incidents here, but they’re really wild animals, not pets or captives–cat-eating bobcats and coyotes, plus the occasional migrating panther. Hyper-destructive feral pigs have moved into the neighborhood but, thank goodness, not in our back yard yet or in the woods behind the house. I hear they’re not too bad to eat if you’re careful about the trichinosis. 🙂

  2. The incident in the news was not a zoo – just a man who owned all these exotic and wild animals. That’s what I expect will soon see a lot more restrictions due to this incident. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hopefully there will be more restrictions on exotic animals. They should not be brought outside their native environments, especially in such large numbers. With so many how did he care for them all? Poor things. IT’s too bad so many people lack common sense.

  4. Jennette, when I saw that story on the news my blood curdled. It just kills me when people take on a responsibility and then take an easy way out for themselves that causes more pain and suffering for others. It’s so selfish. All those poor animals.

    About an hour from my home we have a Wild Cat Conservator that specializes in many large and endangered species. I have been there several times. Someday I hope to adopt one of the cats. By this, it simply means pay for the cats care.

    As a child my neighbor was harboring a chimpanzee in his backyard. Of course that all changed the day I snuck in to his yard to get a closer look and got bitten. Animal control got involved at that point. I am sure where ever the chimp ended up, it was better where they had him.

  5. This desire to own wild animals is not one I’ve ever experienced. A year or so ago, we had a bunch of exotic snakes breeding here in Florida. Of course, there’s gators in every tiny body of water because people don’t want them as pets any more. And often, there are exotic birds flying “free,” but unable to fend for themselves. Then, in Northern Michigan, we’re worried about Asian Carp in the waterways, released by exotic fish breeders….

  6. So cool of you to bring awareness to a great non-profit. Do they have a website? If so, any chance you can add the website to your post, so folks can visit and maybe donate that way if they feel led?

  7. This is one of the saddest cases I’ve heard about. Shocking that there weren’t laws in place to prevent this. I read an interview with a lady who lived by him and she said she was always terrified for her children if they escaped. Can you imagine living in terror like this? Craziness.

    I too, live in Florida and worrying about back yard alligators is more than enough for me!

  8. When I heard them first reporting about this story–I was worried for residents and the animals. I was naive though because I thought they would be able to tranquilize the animals. So unfortunate. I am going to check out Heaven’s Corners site now. Thanks!

  9. A lot of people wondered about that, including me. The fact that it was night and the cops just weren’t equipped to do this worked against them. So sad.

  10. @Asrai – so true! They were kept in pens that were too small and not kept adequately clean. I will be very surprised if we don’t see some legislation to address this soon.

  11. Ouch, Debra! I agree, people shouldn’t be able to keep them like this. Heaven’s Corner has an adoption program like the one you’re in. Great of you to help out like that!

  12. @Shannon – I was very surprised too, that there are pretty much no restrictions on keeping animals like this! Many municipalities do ban them – including mine. It had to be scary for the neighbors!