An Highway Patrol officer drives past a sign warning of the exotic animals on the loose from a wildlife preserve in Zanesville, Ohio. (Getty Images)
Zanesville, OH (written by Kathy Thompson/The Times Recorder) --For the first time in a year, Marian Thompson is discussing how she has struggled with the year since she lost not only her husband, Terry, but 50 of her exotic animals that she considered family.
Terry Thompson took his life a year ago Thursday after releasing 56 exotic animals from the farm he shared with his wife on Kopchak Road in Zanesville.
The Muskingum County Sheriff's Office had to kill most of the animals, but three panthers, a bear and two monkeys were saved.
Those animals were taken to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for six months while Marion fought to have them returned to her and the farm.
Marian said in an email to the Times Recorder that she purposely has not spoken out about her husband or the animals because of her efforts to get those at the zoo returned to her.
"The journey of their return home proved to be an unbearable emotional experience filled with continuous disappointments, setbacks and the loss of our beloved Anton," Marion stated. "The eventual return of the cherished five after a six-month confinement and quarantine at the zoo has finally provided me the strength to move forward."
Of the six animals taken to the zoo, only five were returned to Marion after Anton, a panther, was euthanzied after a steel door slammed on his neck while he was being transported from one cage to another.
Marion fought with zoo officials and officials with the Ohio Department of Agriculture to get the animals returned. The animals were placed in quarantine for the six months, but now are being kept at the Thompson farm.
Marion stated in her email that she is working on a publication that will shed some light on the events of that night, what she calls a "tragic chapter," in her life.
"My book will be dedicated to not only the magnificent animals that were lost on the horrific night, but also to Terry William Thompson, my beloved late husband, who loved each and every animal dearly," Marian stated.
Marian was was out of town on business and not at the farm that night in October 2011, according to her attorney, Dean Wilson.
She arrived the next day, shortly after the last animal was put down by sheriff's deputies, and spoke to ODA officials, Sheriff Matt Lutz and Jack Hanna, who represented the zoo at the time.
Her email said she has had the past year to reflect on her thoughts, which has offered her a peace of mind in the "midst of losing 49 beings that were the heart and soul of my existence."
"Whether you are an exotic animal owner or simply an animal lover, you share my sentiments that these special creatures of nobility can exist in a caring, safe environment with love and devotion to their preservation."
Marian said she has faith that good will prevail and something positive will be eventually resurrected from the ashes of the tragedy of losing her husband and animals.
She also said she wanted to thank those people worldwide who supported the ones taken to the zoo and then returned to her.
"The messages and gifts have enabled us to survive the days of despair, sorrow and extreme bewilderment in dealing with the tragic series of events and losses," Marian said. "I shall be eternally grateful for your sympathy."
Terry Thompson's death leaves at least one legacy to exotic animal owners: Ohio lawmakers have passed strict laws regarding the ownership of exotic animals.
Owners have until Nov. 5 to register their animals with state and then until Jan. 1, 2014 to comply with the new restrictions and regulations. A $3.5 million, 20,000-square-foot complex is planned in Reynoldsburg to house exotic animals people no longer can care for because of the legislation.