Conservationists reacted with outrage as 49 animals, including 18 rare Bengal tigers, were shot by police in Ohio after escaping from a private reserve.
A state of emergency was declared in the city of Zanesville on Tuesday night after bears, camels, wolfs, lions and tigers from the nearby Muskingum County Animal Farm ran amok on the streets.
They had been let loose by the farm's owner Terry Thompson, 62, who opened the doors to the animal enclosures before shooting himself.
By late yesterday (19 October), only six were captured alive, including a grizzly bear, three leopards and two monkeys.
As well as the Bengal tigers - of which less than 1,400 survive in the wild -17 lions, eight bears and a wolf were put down.
The local police department said public safety concerns meant they had no choice but to shoot the animals, most of which were killed at close-range using handguns.
"I had deputies that had to shoot animals with their side arms at close range, that's how volatile it was," said Sherriff Matt Lutz of the Muskingum County Sheriff department. "We are not talking about your normal everyday house cat or dog, these are 300 pound Bengal tigers that we've had to put down. When we got here, obviously public safety was my number one concern."
But as photos of the animal carcasses (above, left to right) went viral, experts raised concerns over the slaughter.
Conservationists called for tighter restriction laws in the US regarding wildlife ownership.
"Quite frankly, nobody should have these animals in the first place, so we need to take steps to change laws to make that a reality," Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA, told AFP.
(PETA) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called for an all-out ban of private ownership of exotic animals in the US.
Watch the Ohio police statement on the animal shooting in the video from Telegraph TV, below.
Picture credits: Associated Press