5 Tragic Stories of Exotic Pet Ownership Gone Wrong

Front shot of a tiger while feeding meat through a cage

 simonlong / Getty Images

Zanesville, Ohio's Terry Thompson made national headlines when he released a horde of wild animals that he and his wife kept on their property, and then killed himself -- leaving the gruesome task of trying to control endangered Bengal tigers, monkeys, lions, wolves, baboons, and more.

The police ended up shooting nearly 50 of the animals in an effort to stop them from terrorizing Thompson's town -- and while this may be the most horrific story of exotic pet ownership we've heard lately, it's certainly not the only one.

There are a lot more reasons not to own exotic pets -- it's impossible to reproduce its natural habitat, breeding difficulties, and more -- but perhaps death will deter some.

Read on for five more pets who went back to their instincts to harm -- or in some cases, kill -- their owners or the owners' friends and family.

1. Charla Nash and the Chimpanzee

chimpanzee behind an electric fence

fwooper / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In 2009, Sandra Herold called her friend Charla Nash for help getting Herold's 200-pound pet chimpanzee, Travis, back into his cage.

But Travis turned on Nash, brutally attacking her by mauling her face and hands. Connecticut officials declined to prosecute Herold, although when Herold died of a rupture aortic aneurysm in 2010, Nash's family still had a $50 million civil suit in the works.

Nash later became the first patient to ever receive a double hand and face transplant.

2. Kelly Ann Walz and the Black Bear

black bear

Todd Ryburn / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Naming a bear "Teddy" doesn't mean you've done away with its animal instincts -- which the Walz family of Allentown, Pennsylvania, tragically found out when the 350-pound black bear they'd raised since it was a cub attacked and killed 37-year-old Kelly Ann Walz as she was cleaning its cage.

Though cages for wild animals often have a section that contains the animal while the other side is cleaned, Walz entered the cage with the bear loose. According to The New York Times, "Her children and the neighbor’s children summoned help, and a neighbor shot and killed the bear."

3. A Toddler and a Python

python curled up

Squamata55 / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Jaren Hare and her boyfriend, Charles Darnell, were sentenced to 12 years in prison after the pet python they kept strangled Hare's two-year-old daughter, Shaianna in July 2009.

The couple told police that the reptile, which they kept inside a laundry bag in a tank pinned closed by a quilt, had escaped 10 times before they found it in the crib with Shaianna, wrapped around her head and body.

4. Child and a Mountain Lion

mountain lion behind a fence

Brent / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The animal control department of Odessa, Texas, had already cited Amber Michelle Couch for not keeping her 150-pound mountain lion current on his vaccines and pointed out that the cage the lion lived in was too small -- and the gaps in between the bars too wide -- to be safe.

But in October 2011, Couch's nephew got too close to the cage and the lion -- which was later killed -- lacerated and punctured the child's face, according to the Odessa American Online.

5. Deer

deer with spots looking up

kkirugi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

When you think of exotic animals, deer aren't always the first four-legged creatures that come to mind -- but they're still wild animals that aren't built for living in captivity.

In 2010, Waskom, Texas resident Gerald Rushton, who was keeping a 500-pound deer as a pet, was killed when the animal kicked him while he was trying to move it.