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Ohio Exotic Animals Farm Faces Foreclosure

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OHIO EXOTIC ANIMALS
A bear explores its cage on the farm of Marian Thompson near Zanesville, Ohio after it and four other exotics were released to Thompson by the Columbus Zoo Friday, May 4, 2012. The Columbus Zoo returned five exotic animals to Thompson, the survivors of 56 animals her late Terry Thompson, released from the eastern Ohio farm Oct. 18, 2011, before he committed suicide. Fearing for the public's safety, authorities killed 48 of the animals. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) | AP

ZANESVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio widow facing foreclosure has paid back taxes on the rural property where she and her husband once housed dozens of exotic animals before police were forced to shoot and kill most of them last year.

Marian Thompson had owed $14,000 for her 70 acres in eastern Ohio near Zanesville, and paid the amount Friday, The Zanesville Times Recorder (http://ohne.ws/J5sU6c) reported.

Thompson's husband, Terry Thompson, had owed the taxes before he freed the animals in October, then committed suicide, forcing authorities to shoot dozens of the animals. Only six survived.

Muskingum County Prosecutor Michael Haddox said his office sent Thompson a letter in November to resolve the tax matters and warn of potential legal action. She faced possible foreclosure on the land.

Thompson's payment comes a week after two surviving leopards, two primates and a bear were returned to the farm. They had been held for months at the Columbus zoo under a state quarantine order that Thompson challenged.

A sixth animal, a leopard, was hurt in an accident while being held at the zoo and had to be euthanized.

Haddox had earlier defended his office's foreclosure notices on the property.

"We want to be zealous in our pursuit of those not paying their taxes, but also we want to also be fair," Haddox told the paper. "We understand the economy is bad right now and understand that people are having hardships. But then there are some people who just refuse to pay. That's when we have to take action."

Neither Haddox nor Thompson's attorney responded to messages seeking comment Friday.

Court records also show several tax liens indicating Thompson owes tens of thousands of dollars. One from June 2010 is for more than $16,000, and another later that year was for more than $39,600, the newspaper said.

Nothing in Ohio law allows state officials to check on the animals' welfare or require improvements to conditions in which they are kept. The state's agriculture department has said it would be up to local authorities to be alert to their caretaking.

The five creatures were released back into Thompson's care after test results shows all five were free of dangerously contagious or infectious diseases.

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Information from: Times Recorder, http://www.zanesvilletimesrecorder.com

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