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May 1st, 2012
08:29 AM ET

Exotic pets to return home after owner committed suicide last year – Columbus Zoo's Tom Stalf on safety concerns

(CNN) - The widow of a man who set free 56 exotic animals he owned before apparently committing suicide last year will get back the five animals that survived, Ohio agriculture officials said Monday.

Zoo officials, who have looked after the surviving leopards, bears and primates since the tragedy, are “deeply concerned” for the animals’ safety, Tom Salf of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium tells Early Start’s Ashleigh Banfied this morning.

A state review board concluded that the animals, which have been kept at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, are free of "dangerously infectious or contagious diseases." The finding required them to lift a quarantine imposed in a move last October to delay their return.

State officials said they were concerned that the widow, Marian Thompson, has said she would put the two spotted leopards, two macaque monkeys and a large brown bear back into the same cages they previously inhabited on her Zanesville, Ohio, farm.

Salf, who visited Thompson’s farm during the October search for the animals, describes the conditions of the cages and holding areas as having “no standards of care at all.”

Ashleigh asks him about the state’s regulations, how residents in the area can ensure their safety and how animals can be protected.