State euthanizes lion seized from Tiger Ridge Exotics

State euthanizes lion seized from Tiger Ridge Exotics

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio (AP) - Ohio agriculture officials say they have euthanized a lion seized from Tiger Ridge Exotics three months ago.

The state agriculture department said on Monday that the lion had been in failing health for quite some time and that in recent weeks he was having trouble standing and moving around, and was no longer eating.

The state says a federal inspector noted last August that the lion named Leo was weak and not walking correctly.

In an inspection reported dated August 31, 2014, a state inspector says “the male lion Leo has an open lesion on his left shoulder an [SIC] is weak in the rear end and not walking correctly.”

Ohio's agriculture department removed Leo, six tigers and four other exotic animals from Tiger Ridge Exotics in January after saying that their owner Kenny Hetrick had ignored warnings that he needed a permit to keep them.

Hetrick, who has operated the animal sanctuary in Stony Ridge for more than 30 years, is currently fighting in court to get them back. Now Hetrick and his family are wondering why they weren't informed of the decision to put Leo down.

Ohio Department of Agriculture Spokesman Erica Hawkins says four veterinarians were brought in to discuss the animal's health. Hawkins says all agreed the animal was in bad shape and would not recover.

Hawkins also says the state consulted Kenny Hetrick, who she says agreed to the plan.

But, Hetrick's daughter Corrina Dankert says that was not the case.

"My dad had no decision whatsoever in this process," said Dankert.

The state says that Leo's long-time veterinarian Dr. Richard Carstensen was made aware of the situation and agreed to the euthanization. Hetrick's daughter admits that the lion has had health problems in the past and that Hetrick was planning to euthanize him back in January. But, she says this time is different because it wasn't their decision.

"It's still our property, we're still in the process of legal proceedings - that's our property and they took away something that we've had for 20 years and put him to sleep like it was nothing," said Dankert.

Erica Hawkins she says all four veterinarians who talked about Leo's condition agreed he was in bad shape and wasn't going to get any better, and that's why the decision was made.

Hetrick's family is also upset because they were told they couldn't have the lion's body.

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