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In October, 2011, Terry Thompson committed suicide by gunshot after cutting open the cages offifty-six exotic animals on his farm in Zanesville, Ohio. Fearingfo r public safety, law enforcement officers systematically hunted down the escaped animals in an episode that garnered international attention and prompted renewed discussion of the propriety of exotic animal ownership. This Article retells and discusses the circumstances surrounding Terry Thompson's unhinging, applying frameworks of legal theory, chiefly in the realm of property law, to assess the fabric that held Thompson's delicate system together and the tensions that led to its unravelling. As an autopsy, the article documents the systems that failed in theoretical and specific terms. After a brief introduction to the law and policy of owning exotic animals, we offer a sequence of competing visions for property, stewardship, personhood, governance, empathy, and physical ordering or disordering as they apply to the ownership of exotic animals in Ohio. Though Thompson had acquired his menagerie through legal means, he resented oversight of government authorities, generating friction that reverberated across the lines of tension named above. The Article concludes with discussion of the need-contra Terry Thompson-to surrender control in ownership relations, community life, and, ultimately, the modern state.
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