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Conservationists Call for Tough Wildlife Ownership Laws

Handout photos from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium of one of two macaques and a black leopard captured by authorities Wednesday, a day after their owned released dozens of wild animals and then killed himself near Zanesville, Ohio, 20 October 2011

Animal rights advocates and conservationists are calling for tough U.S. wildlife ownership laws after the slaughter of 49 animals set free from a privately owned exotic animal farm Tuesday in the midwestern state of Ohio.

The advocates say there was little local authorities could have done to save the dangerous creatures roaming the countryside, after their owner released them before taking his own life.

The dead animals include 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions. Three leopards, a grizzly bear and two monkeys were captured and taken to the Columbus Zoo.

Officers were ordered to kill the animals instead of trying to bring them down with tranquilizers for fear that those hit with darts would escape in the darkness before they dropped and would later regain consciousness.

The Humane Society of the United States called for an emergency rule to crack down on exotic animals until Ohio comes up with a permanent legal solution. An Ohio ban on the buying and selling of exotic pets expired in April.

Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin, also have no laws regarding exotic animal ownership.

Law enforcement officials said they were aware of neighbors' complaints about problems at the farm. Deputies had visited the property several times in the past few years and the owner had a prior conviction for animal cruelty.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.