The Ohio Department of Agriculture tentatively plans to begin medical tests Dec. 15 on three leopards, two primates and a young grizzly bear kept at a zoo since their owner released dozens of exotic animals at his farm and killed himself, a department spokeswoman said Friday.
The Columbus Zoo has cared for the animals since Terry Thompson released them at his farm near Zanesville in October and set off a hunt by authorities who fatally shot four dozen animals, including rare Bengal tigers, lions and bears.
The state ordered that the surviving animals be kept under quarantine amid officials' concerns about reports that may have been kept in unsanitary conditions and exposed to disease.
Zoo and state officials have been trying to determine whether the animals are healthy enough to be tested for diseases and whether they're strong enough to survive if they are anesthetized to have blood drawn for testing.
The animals have been eating well and their health has appeared to improve, so officials set the tentative date to begin testing, Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Erica Pitchford said. The animals may undergo physical exams, X-rays, blood sampling and other types of tests to evaluate their health, she said.
Thompson's widow has appealed the quarantine order that prevents the zoo from releasing the animals until it's clear they're free of dangerous diseases.
Lawyers on both sides have not yet set a date to present their arguments to a hearing officer. The officer, an attorney not employed by the department, would make a determination to be reviewed by the department's director.
The zoo said it initially had Marian Thompson's permission to care for the animals, which were kept separate from other animals, but has no legal rights to them.
Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment Friday.