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Leopard that survived Ohio exotic animal panic dies

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A spotted leopard, one of dozens of exotic animals that set off a panic when they were briefly released in rural Ohio last October, has died at the Columbus zoo after its spinal cord was damaged in a freak accident, a zoo spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The spotted leopard was one of 56 animals Terry Thompson released on his Zanesville, Ohio farm before shooting himself. Ohio law enforcement officers killed 49 of the animals, which included rare Bengal tigers, black bears, grizzlies, wolves and lions. Six were taken alive to the zoo.

The incident spurred state legislative proposals to create a list of restricted animals in Ohio, one of only seven states that does not ban private ownership and sale of exotic animals. Current owners would have to register their animals and new ownership or sale would be restricted.

The male leopard had been quarantined at the zoo since it was recovered and "unexpectedly darted back as a door was being lowered, striking it on the neck" during a routine feeding Sunday afternoon, zoo spokeswoman Patty Peters said.

A veterinarian began chest compressions on the animal after it was determined it was not breathing and did not have a heartbeat, Peters said. The leopard was put on a ventilator and an examination found the injury to be irreversible, she said.

The leopard also was found to have old injuries including broken bones to its back and tail and a malformed vertebrae due to a congenital defect.

The Zoo has a spotted leopard, a black leopard, two Celebes macaques, and one brown bear in quarantine from the farm. One other animal was never accounted for and presumed eaten by others.

(Editing by David Bailey and Greg McCune)