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One Year Later: Death in Zanesville

Better Late Than Never, Law Finally Goes Into Effect November 5

The image sticks with me, of majestic lions, tigers and bears laid out along a muddy Zanesville driveway.

All of them lifeless, wet from rain, their underfurs muddy from the chase —

It was already a year ago October 18 that this happened in Ohio, and somehow a year has made this picture even more unbearable as I sit here on a Sunday morning nibbling biscotti and drinking coffee.

Tragic death always feels more rotten after time, not better. At least it does for me. I think about how the deceased have not passed the time with us.

Details that emerge after a year also tend to be more chilling; in Charles Siebert's essay-length book “Rough Beasts,” he reveals more about owner Terry Thompson's intent when he released these animals into his community, describes a menagerie of wild animals on the loose and confused, and tells the thought processes behind so many of those gun shots.

“I had no choice, sir.”

Then there is the vision of Thompson's wife, Marian, who has since returned part-time to the home where the dead were all buried in a mass grave, and where she keeps the five survivors of October 18 that she spent six months trying to get back from quarantine at Columbus Zoo.

Her side of the story will eventually be published, she revealed to USA Today on the anniversary. She'll also pay tribute to her late husband's tremendous love and care for the animals, she said.

OK, whatever.

Nothing will revive the 18 tigers, 17 lions, three mountains lions, six black bears, two grizzly bears, two wolves and baboon justifyably but tragically killed that day, about two and a half hours from Mentor by car.

What will give their deaths meaning, though, is finally upon Ohio — Senate Bill 310, signed by Governor John Kasich on June 5 and active November 5, which will regulate the sale of exotic animals in Ohio and apply restrictions to current owners.

(Another photo: Jack Hanna, director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium, the famous face of the killings and vocal critic of Kasich's unwillingness to act much earlier, shaking hands with Kasich at the signing.)

As of November 5, law will require Ohio owners to register exotic animals and, by January 1, 2014, bring their facilities into compliance with new regulations. That date also bans the acquisition, sale and breeding of restricted species in Ohio: large cats, bears, elephants, certain monkeys, rhinos, alligators, crocodiles, anacondas and pythons longer than 12 feet, certain vipers and venomous snakes.

According to USA Today, a $3.5 million complex is to be built in Reynoldsburg for those exotics that will have to leave home for safer pastures in January.

So at least there's that, finally, I think as I take my mouse over the X on the defining death picture — a massacre the likes of which we must never see again.

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