In the aftermath of this past week’s tragic killing of 49 exotic animals, including 18 rare Bengal Tigers, in Zanesville, Ohio, Republican Governor Kasich and conservatives are scrambling, trying every way possible to put a right-wing spin on this calamity. Endangered wolves & monkeys were among the animals killed after their troubled owner, Terry Thompson, took his own life and released the animals. Six leopards were saved and a monkey is still unaccounted for. Reality, however, will just not spin that way.

Although professionals in handling exotic animals have been pushing for years for stronger regulations regarding ownership of these animals, an alliance of conservatives, libertarians, Republicans & NRA types have successfully blocked them. Ohio remains one of only seven states that require no permits & have next to no regulations for the private ownership of exotic animals. Previous Governor Strickland had issued an executive order banning the purchase or boarding of exotic animals by anyone who’d been convicted of animal cruelty. Even this relatively mild measure was immediately canceled by new right-wing Gov. Kasich.

“These animals do not belong in people’s backyards, bedrooms or basements,” stated Wayne Pacelle (CEO, US Humane Society). “Private individuals cannot provide adequate care or security for these animals or the public.”

Desperately trying to put a better face on the disaster, Kasich issued a new executive order putting in place a task force to “study” the problem. Animal advocates were not optimistic of progress, however, as it was learned that two of the groups appointed to the task force are part of the exotic animal ownership lobby; Ohio Association of Animal Owners (OAAO) & the misleadingly named Zoological Association of America, which “accredits” so-called roadside “zoos.”

“There are certain things private individuals simply cannot provide. The resources needed are immense.” stated Dale Schmidt, CEO, Columbus Zoo. “Lion & Tiger cubs are cute and cuddly when they’re young, but quickly grow into huge, uncontrollable big cats.”

Making the Ohio situation worse was the fact that Terry Thompson, the exotic animal owner, was a troubled individual & a fanatical gun owner as well. The local paper described Thompson as having a “long and troubled history with guns and exotic animals.” Thompson had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005 & was found guilty of weapons violations after a 2008 raid by ATF authorities confiscated over a hundred illegal weapons. He owed over $68,000 to Muskingum County in back taxes and had just been released from prison, serving time on the weapons charges, the previous August.

Muskingum County Sherriff, Matt Lutz, spoke of having been called to Thompson’s place 16 times over the past couple years on various complains from nearby residents. After the animal killings, both Lutz and his deputies spoke of “feeling horrible” about the killings. “We wanted to save the animals, but when we were faced with threats to public safety, we just saw no alternatives,” he said.

While Ohio is being now described by many animal advocates as having “the worst exotic animal laws in the nation,” the situation is not exclusive to this state. Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia & Wisconsin join Ohio in having next to no regulations in regard to exotic animal ownership. Idaho, Michigan & Montana are being widely cited by the same groups as having little or wholly inadequate regulations.

It is no mistake that there is an overlap in the cited states with those openly attacking public workers, their unions and all things public. Ohio and Wisconsin both now have extreme right-wing Republican Governors, legislatures, that have passed vicious legislation attacking public worker’s rights. Huge coalitions have emerged in both areas, fighting to protect hard won public worker’s benefits and unions.

Those areas that we’ve come to jointly, as a nation, believe must be public in ownership and nature, include zoos, as well as police, fire fighters, teachers and many other areas. The reactionary forces now trying to push us backwards, to when there was little or no public sector, would have us return to the time represented in the movie; ‘Gangs of New York.’ The ‘Gangs’ spoken of in that movie were actually early “private” firefighters. They were also gangs who’d set your house on fire, then extort you to obtain payment for putting it out. In defending public workers and their unions, we are defending our very civilization from the forces of corporate anarchy!