Ohio officials are set to return two leopards, two macaques and a bear today to the widow of a man who last October released 56 exotic animals near Zanesville and then killed himself.
Most of the animals were killed by authorities for the sake of public safety, but some were turned over to the Columbus Zoo.
Now, despite public statements from zoo employees that they believe these animals should not be returned to Marian Thompson; despite the fact there is no provision in Ohio law to monitor the welfare of these animals once they are in Thompson's custody, the Ohio Department of Agriculture says it has exhausted its authority in the case.
There is nothing they can do. They cannot even require Thompson to improve the conditions on her property to ensure a better quality of life for the animals -or more security for people living near them.
Shifting the burden to the local level, a spokeswoman for the agriculture department said the Humane Society, with help from the local prosecutor, could step in if there was an investigation into animal cruelty.
It is a shame Ohio officials and politicians are unwilling to make the changes necessary to protect exotic animals - and the public - but are perfectly willing to lay responsibility on dedicated animal welfare workers and local prosecutors who may not be especially prepared to deal with leopards and macaques.
There is no doubt local authorities will do their best to meet their responsibilities to these animals and local residents. Thompson's case may even fade from memory. But she and her late husband are not unique. Ohio lawmakers must strengthen the state's laws before more animals - or humans - pay the price of failure to do so.