Lion Seized From Animal Sanctuary Euthanized By State


"Leo" the lion was euthanized this afternoon by the Department of Agriculture.

The state was holding the Lion and other animals after they were seized from Tiger Ridge sanctuary near Toledo.

In a statement to 10TV, the Department Of Agriculture said: the lion was humanely euthanized this afternoon after experiencing complications from his chronic arthritis. Last week, department animal health staff began to observe signs of prolonged lateral recumbency, loss of appetite, increased rate of breathing, and decreased ability to move.  The State Veterinarian (Dr. Tony Forshey) and Assistant State Veterinarian (Dr. Melissa Simmerman) consulted with Dr. Richard Carstensen, Leo’s long-time veterinarian, and Dr. Randall Junge, Vice President of Animal Health for the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds.  All four veterinarians recommended to humanely euthanize the lion given his condition and how long the ailments have been present.

The lion, Leo, was documented to be weak in the rear end and not walking correctly on August 28, 2014 by an inspector from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  When the animal was transported in January, the lion had open lesions on his rear limbs due to his reduced mobility.  For these reasons, Leo’s veterinarian actually had scheduled him to be euthanized on January 26, though weather prevented procedure from occurring.

The animals were taken after the state claimed the owner, Kenny Hetrick, failed to apply for the proper permits. Hetrick is fighting the order.

The state said the Lion had to be put down because it was not walking correctly and had lesions on his rear limbs which reduced his mobility.


Previous Report: Exotic Animal Owner Battles State To Get Bears, Tigers Back At Animal Sanctuary  

For more than 40 years, Kenny Hetrick has devoted his life to the care of wild animals - providing a sanctuary for bears, tigers, and leopards.  He says the fight over his for-profit Tiger Ridge compound has cost him around $40,000 to $50,000 in legal fees.

Now, the Toledo man is fighting to get his animals back.

Tiger Ridge sanctuary was raided in January after the state says he failed to apply for an exotic animal permit.  The state says his application "was 289 days late."

Under Oath during an administrative hearing at the Ohio Department of Agriculture, he said complying with the exotic animal law was confusing.  His attorney told the judge when he tried to ask for guidance from enforcement officials he got nowhere.

“She wouldn't answer the phone,” Hetrick explains.

When asked by his attorney Tim Waleruis if he tried leaving a message, Hetrick replied “about 10 times.”  Hetrick goes on to explain that none of his calls were ever returned, either.

Hetrick says before Department of Agriculture agents removed his animals, they had never requested to visit his property.  The state says when seized the animals, they found less than ideal conditions including pools of water with algae.

“It was your testimony that you felt this water was clean enough, because you can scoop it up in your hand and look at it and it looked clean to you.  That was your testimony,” said Attorney Jim Patterson representing the state.

“That's what I said”, Hetrick replied.

Hetrick argues the USDA has been inspecting his property since 1989. 

“USDA doesn't enforce Ohio's dangerous and wild animal law do they?” asked Paterson.

Hetrick replied “no.”

The state argues Hetrick was sent repeated letters warning him he was in violation and that he wouldn't get a permit unless he complied.  But Hetrick argued he was never given an ultimatum and felt that gave him time to get his property in compliance.

Hetrick denied receiving a letter that provided a final cut-off date to apply for a permit with ODA.

The state says it sent Hetrick a letter last year, saying he had to respond within 10 days.

Meantime, during the removal of a female cougar from the property, a former ODA employee testified earlier this month that it wasn't fully tranquilized and was injured.  He claimed there was blood everywhere in the cage.

However, a vet from the Columbus zoo who was there said it didn't happen.  The employee was fired for performance issues.