Suicide in Ohio results in the death of dozens of exotic animals.

What a tragedy.

I just learned that a man in Ohio who kept a large number of wild animals as pets, turned them all loose late yesterday afternoon before turning a gun on himself.  The carnage continued from there.  Witnesses called in sightings of roaming lions, tigers, wolves, and bears, after which local law enforcement, with consultation from the Columbus Zoo and other agencies, were given the order to shoot on sight.

As of this writing, the majority of the dozens of wild animals the troubled man set free are now dead.  Of course it could have been even worse.  Additional innocent bystanders in the area, both human and animal, might have easily added to the count.  I’m grateful…I really am…that the ripples of this bloodbath were stopped before they could spread any farther.  But I’m still sobered and deeply saddened by this unspeakable waste of life.

And also…uneasy.

There are clear signs that suicide rates are on the rise since the recession began.  Yet, even while the levels of economic stress and fear are heightening instability, federal and state funding for mental health (which was nowhere near enough to begin with) is now being slashed or eliminated entirely.  Needless to say this is not a promising combination.

IF YOU’RE CONSIDERING SUICIDE: Please, if you’ve wondered if it might stop the pain, or if those you love would be better off without you, or if you just feel so out there on the edge that you’re not sure you can take anymore, pleasebefore you take a last step that can never be undone, make at least one phone call; to a loved one or a friend or a hotline.  (I’ve listed some suicide hotline numbers below.)  If it doesn’t work, you haven’t lost anything by trying.  But if it does work…if, with some help, you’re able to find a way through the current darkness back to a life you love…then not only will you be safe but you’ll also have protected everything you care about most from any taste of the kind of carnage that happened in Ohio yesterday.

FOR FRIENDS OR LOVED ONES:  And if you’re worried about someone else, you can also call one of the numbers listed above.  Or click here for an excellent article with information on what to do if you think someone you know may be considering suicide.

With things as stressful as they are right now, and with the social safety net growing ever weaker, we need to look out for one another more than ever.  I realize the temptation is to get angry over what happened to these beautiful animals and look for someone to blame.  But it would probably do more good to look for others who are still in need of help instead.  Maybe we could prevent something like this from happening again.

My heart goes out to everyone surviving yesterday’s events; Mr.Thompson’s wife and family, their friends and neighbors, the police who were forced to shoot the innocent animals involved, the officials who had to make the difficult decisions, and the remaining animals who have to endure the trauma of loss, fear, confusion, dislocation, and possible euthanasia this has caused.  I wish everyone involved strength, clarity, and forgiveness in navigating the coming days.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255

Veterans Suicide Hotline – Confidential Help for Veterans: Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

Or go to for a list of hotlines by state as well as a hotline for the deaf.

6 responses

  1. hummm interesting

    I have a close friend who will, I am sure one day take his own life.
    He is a dear friend, but sometimes a terribly troubled one, and after a couple of decades I have now come to the conclusion that death by his own hand will be inevitable.

    I am resolved to this. I am not happy with it, but I understand that this may be the course his life will take……
    all I ask of him is to let me know when…. at least I can do something for him AFTER the event

    • I know. I have someone close who will probably do the same thing and I, too, am resolved to it. After watching her struggles over the last couple of decades my understanding of certain disease processes has evolved. In the same way that a heart attack can be a natural terminal event for someone with chronic heart disease, I believe that suicide can be a natural terminal event for someone with a chronic mental illness. Unfortunately, all suicides tend to be lumped together into one undifferentiated, indiscriminate package, and the same stigma attaches to every one, regardless of the underlying causes. A teenager taking their life after losing a first love, or a mother succumbing in the midst of a postpartum depression are very different situations from a schizophrenic or depressive who’s fought the disease with dwindling success for a lifetime. And those are only a few examples of course. Then there are also those advanced situations with the terminally ill…but I’m not even sure those cases should be called suicide. We need a different term there.
      In this case, the man was a veteran of the Vietnam War, and the subsequent events of his life suggest the possibility of chronic PTSD and it’s long-term deleterious effects. I have a special sensitivity to these vets as several men in my family served in that war and I’m all too aware of the psychic vulnerabilities they came home with. (And how little help they received afterwards–and, frankly, still don’t receive.) I’m glad your friend has someone like you who understands John. I think everyone deserves that level of respect and compassion.

  2. Dia, I knew you’d write about this. I was counting on you to make some sort of sense out of all those poor wasted lives. You found a way to help. I still mourn the critters more than the man or all the potential human suicides…but you used the awful incident to raise awareness and knoweldge. You never let me down. One of these days I’ll run through your posts and try to pick the ones that have meant the most. (a challenge, because I love them all.) If I forget…remind me…

    • I think few people will mourn the man, which is sad. From everything I read he was deeply troubled. Vietnam vet apparently with PTSD and all it’s related behavioral, spiraling problems, eventually wound up in prison for a year on illegal firearms charges, was just released three weeks ago (and we all know how much support prisoners get when they’re thrown back into the world), and there were evidently tax + other liens on his property for $56,000. My guess? He despaired. It sounds like he was in danger of losing not only the property, but all the animals he loved–a substantial number of whom would have to be euthanized. (Placement for abandoned exotics is very difficult and this guy had…what…over 50?) In an odd way this smacks of a murder suicide, as in the kind where an elderly spouse can no longer care for their lifetime mate and decides to end both their lives rather than face separation or abandonment. Although this fellow chose death-by-cop for his animals. All reports over the decades indicate that the animals were actually always well cared for. I imagine they were something he still felt safe loving and, in the end, knowing he was going to lose the property and have to euthanize a large number of them, he just couldn’t bear to kill them himself. I imagine setting them free was also his last big fuck-you to the world…he was clearly angry…and unfortunately that’s probably the only thing most people will take away from this.
      God Linda…I just feel like if we all took better care of one another things like this wouldn’t happen as often as they do. Do you know what the homeless rates are for vets now? It’s disgraceful. I think our values as a nation have been so corrupted over the last few decades…IMO being a superpower has NOT been a blessing at all and I’m glad we’re falling off that particular pedestal. Maybe the value of simple humanity will come back into its own again now, to fill the vacuum. I think all the suffering of the current transition would be worth it, if that could happen.

      • You make valid points about the agony of the man. He needed help….a long time ago, before he began collecting animals he needed help. As you so correctly point out, he did not get the help he needed. I thought the story smacked of a specialized form of animal hoarding…obsessive/compulsive behavior in which a person feels driven to “save” animals way beyond their means to realistically do so. Perhaps he was trying to save the souls of those he felt responsible for as a vet? In any case, you are so right. He was in agony. I wonder who cared for his animals during his year in prison? It’s sad. Sad all the way around.

        I was just thinking of the cycle of endless homelessness today when I saw a man wandering across Vista Avenue. When I worked for the PO, I used to see this same poor, mixed up, disheveled man wandering around downtown. I think at the time he lived in a sort of flophouse that I delivered to. He was always in a bad way, often having soiled his trousers, obviously in need of medication and human attention. Then to see him again….all the way up on the bench? It made me ponder how long a person can survive such a life without. Dia, it’s been nearly 3 years since I retired. I watched this fellow for probably 5 years before that. How long has he been roaming, how long will he roam, and who pays his bills and helps him manage? It’s a heartbreaking mystery.

  3. Pingback: Tragedy Times Two « Rangewriter

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s