Court: Ohio Doesn't Have to Return Woman's Tigers, Baboons, Cougars and Other Exotic Animals


  • Rocky the Cougar, previously of Stump Hill Farm
Update: The Ohio Supreme Court yesterday ruled that a Stark County judge who ordered the state to return a small circus of exotic animals it had seized from a Massilon-area woman lacked the jurisdiction to do so.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture had previously taken five tigers, two cougars, two baboons and a chimp from Cynthia Hunstman in early May. The department argued that she did not have the proper permits after a 2012 change to state law in the wake of the Terry Thompson/Zanesville escapade. She argued she was exempt and was to be grandfathered in.

It went to court in Stark County and then Mike DeWine asked the Ohio Supreme Court to take a look at the case.

The decision found that the Stark County judge "patently and unambiguously lacks jurisdiction to order the return of the dangerous wild animals seized from Cynthia Huntsman and Stump Hill Farm."


(Original story 5/11/16): Last week, a Stark County judged ordered the state of Ohio to return a troupe of exotic animals that officials had seized on May 4. 

The Department of Agriculture had rounded up five tigers, two cougars, two baboons and a chimpanzee living at Stump Hill Farm in Massillon. Farm owner Cynthia Hunstman says she was in the process of arranging for the necessary permits and that the state intervened prematurely. (Rigorous regulations for exotic animal ownership went into effect Jan. 1, 2014, three years after Terry Thompson released 48 exotic animals on his farm in Zanesville and committed suicide.)

"For some reason, the state decided to come in and take the animals without any notice or warning," Juergensen told the Columbus Dispatch. "These animals don't pose a danger to anyone."

Judge Frank Forchione granted a preliminary injunction for the animals' return. It's not immediate, though; a state veterinarian advised Forchione to delay the order for two weeks to allow the animals some time between anesthesia treatments while traveling. 

Yesterday, Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a motion contesting that injunction, insisting that Forchione "patently and unambiguously lack[s] jurisdiction over this matter.”

A hearing on the injunction is set for May 19.

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