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The satellite trucks, news vans and spectators poured into Muskingum County as Marian Thompson and her five remaining exotic animals arrived at the Kopchak Road farm on Friday.
It’s here on this farm where Terry Thompson released dozens of exotic animals before committing suicide back in October. Now, almost seven months later, his widow Marian is making national headlines once again.
"I don’t think they should even be in the area," said James Curtis. "There’s too many kids around here. I don’t want to see anybody get hurt."
People who live walking distance from the farm are worried about their safety once again. Marian Thompson loaded the five surviving creatures into her truck and drove them from the Columbus Zoo back to Muskingum County.
"Once the quarantine was over and the testing was done, they’re her property, so she has the right to have those animals," said Sheriff Matt Lutz. "She has the right to take those animals wherever she wants in the state of Ohio."
Lutz said there isn’t much he can do about it, because Marian hasn’t broken any laws by acquiring the two leopards, two primates and a bear, but neighbors seem to think they belong somewhere else.
"A zoo, because they’re exotic animals," said Brittany Bandyne. "They don’t belong in a cage in a backyard."
"I just think it’s wrong," said Curtis. "They should keep them in the zoo where they’re safe."
Despite those concerns, Lutz said the animals are likely here to stay unless future problems unfold. Marian’s lawyer Robert McClelland told the state’s agriculture department that his client has adequate cages for the animals. It’s a claim being disputed by the state, but not necessarily by the sheriff’s office.
"The five animals we’re talking about were never out of their pens to start with," said Lutz. "They were never let loose by Mr. Thompson. The pens were never damaged, and they were successfully holding those animals."
Deputies will continue to monitor the situation and respond to any complaints, but Lutz said he doesn’t anticipate any serious issues, considering how Marian responded when the other 48 animals were gunned down by authorities to preserve public safety.
"I know how devastated she was back in October when the animals died," said Lutz. "I’m sure she’s going to go above and beyond to keep those animals as safe and secure as possible so nothing happens to them."
"I think she will because she wants them," said Bandyne. "She doesn’t want any of them to get taken away."
The waiting game is over for Marian, and this homecoming begins the next chapter of the incident that put Muskingum County on the map.
The Ohio legislature has been working on creating rules for owners of animals like these, and the measure has passed the senate. It now goes to the house for consideration.