Tell Walnut Prairie Wildside to Stop Treating Wild Animals Like Toys

He may not have been featured in Tiger King, but Thomas Edmonds, the owner of Walnut Prairie Wildside in Illinois, is cut from the same cloth. He has treated tiger and cougar cubs like toys, killed rabbits by swinging them against trees, kept roosters tethered to stakes, and allowed sick animals to languish without veterinary care—and he can’t even seem to provide animals with basic necessities like shelter and water. He has been cited for repeatedly violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—including for not having any experience working with big cats—and in June 2021, he racked up so many citations that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suspended his license for 21 days. But that didn’t stop Edmonds. The very next day, he was caught exhibiting animals to the public in violation of the suspension order.

In February 2022, after years of Edmonds’ ignoring citations and guidance from and lying to the USDA, the agency submitted a formal complaint against him for more than 65 alleged violations of the AWA. He also failed his first relicensing inspection in November 2021 and reportedly had animals confiscated by the state in 2019. His license has been canceled, but until the agency permanently revokes it, this shady exhibitor will remain on PETA’s “most-wanted” animal abusers list.

tiger cub at roadside zoo Walnut Prairie Wildside

Before the Big Cat Public Safety Act outlawed hands-on public encounters with big cats in 2022, Edmonds was repeatedly cited by the USDA for the nightmare he put cubs through. In 2019, he acquired Lily, a baby tiger, when she was less than 2 weeks old, and during public encounters just a few weeks later, a woman dropped her on her head. When Lily grew too large to be forced into public encounters, Edmonds acquired Tony and then Daisy, who was only a day old when she was shipped to the roadside zoo. As the tigers grew bigger, he acquired cougar cubs to exploit for encounters so that he could continue to make a quick buck from animals’ misery.

photo of cougar cub

Big-cat cubs need their mothers’ milk, warmth, and companionship, which are vital to their development. Edmonds’ belief that animals are toys for his amusement and profit is a manifestation of speciesism—the belief that humans are inherently superior to other animals based solely on species membership.

Please call Walnut Prairie Wildside at 618-562-5177 and politely ask Edmonds to send the animals to reputable facilities. Then, mail a letter to:

Walnut Prairie Wildside
204 Mulberry St.
West Union, IL 62477

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind