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Schools Close After Animals Escape Muskingum Co. Exotic Animal Farm


UPDATED: Wednesday October 19, 2011 9:12 AM

**EDITOR'S NOTE**

This is the original link to 10TV.com's coverage of the exotic animal escape.  Click here for the most updated story.

Several schools announced that they will not have school on Wednesday after exotic animals escaped a Muskingum County animal farm.

The schools are: Maysville Local Schools, Zanesville City Schools, Foxfire Community Schools and West Muskingum Local Schools.

Police said they had shot at least 25 of at least 48 escaped exotic animals on Tuesday night.

Terry Thompson, the owner of the farm, was found dead outside of his home on the animal farm property.

Police said the fences had been left unsecured.

According to police, the animals escaped at about 6 p.m. from an animal farm near Kopchak Road.

Police would not comment on what animals escaped but said the animal farm did have lions, wolves, cheetahs, tigers, giraffes, camels, grizzly bears and black bears.

“It’s been a bad situation for a long time and the last thing we want to do is to have any of our public hurt,” said Muskingum Sheriff Matt Lutz. “No young kids should go outside tonight.”

According to police, bears and wolves had been shot and killed.

There were multiple sightings of exotic animals along Interstate 70, police said.

Muskingum Sheriff Matt Lutz said resident safety is his primary concern.

“We want our citizens to take any and all precautions they can tonight,” said Lutz. “Our number one priority is nobody gets hurt out of this ordeal. This is a bad situation.”

Police said staff from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and The Wilds were on scene, hoping to tranquilize the animals and return them to safety.

The Licking County Sheriff's Office said they had received at least four reports of exotic animal sightings at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday.

As a precaution the Licking County Sheriff's Office said they had activated members of its SWAT team who were equipped with night vision and the weapons necessary to deal with the animals.

Animal expert Jack Hanna spoke exclusively with 10TV about the incident on Tuesday night.

"It's a terrible situation, there's no doubt about that," said Hanna. "The loss of any animal's life is tragic, of course the loss of a human life would be even more tragic."

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