Lions in Ohio?

Think lions loose in Ohio is a freak occurrence?  Watch the excellent movie “The Elephant in the Living Room“.

Sadly, the lions-loose-in-the-Midwest scenario happens surprisingly often.  Filmmaker Michael Webber tracks several owners of exotic pets and one very impressive guy who deals with the messes they create.

Film protagonist Tim Harrison is cross trained as a police officer, fireman, and paramedic.  He is since retired and has a business, Outreach for Animals that basically tracks down and captures wild animals that should never have been pets in the first place.  Harrison deals with the animals – and their difficult owners – with competence and sympathy.  He never hurts the animals he captures, but rather finds appropriate homes for them.

One of the animal keeps who gets the most coverage is a man in Ohio keeping a family of lions in incredibly inappropriate conditions, including a small, muddy cage, and even for a while a horse trailer.  By the end of the movie, Harrison has convinced the man to send the lions to a preserve in Colorado where they can live on several hundred acres, rather than a fraction of one.

Of course, these lions and other animals can cause a lot of harm if they get out, as is now feared in Ohio.  However, one of the most striking aspects of the movie is the fact that often the keeping of exotic animals accompanies deeper problems.  Many of the people featured in the movie are depressed or otherwise looking for their strange pets to provide something missing in their lives.

A few scenes where Harrison infiltrates an exotic animals convention featuring crocodiles, venomous snakes, spiders, and other killer animals.  The morbid fascination of the patrons for these animals is disturbing.

Part of Harrison’s activities in the movie include trying to convince the Ohio legislature to pass laws regulating the ownership of exotic animals.  Currently many states have none.  That might sound crazy, but perhaps until recently it just never came up.

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