Craig Kokas, an animal breeder and dealer doing business in Ohio as Kokas Exotics, must be stopped. His seedy operation has racked up multiple federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations, now amounting to an alleged 113 in just over a year. These occurred between September 2021 and November 2022, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally filed a complaint.
The Individuals Exploited by Kokas
According to the complaint, as of March 2022, Kokas’ breeding facility “had an inventory of 533 animals, including cats, ferrets, foxes, skunks, raccoons, mink, groundhogs, hedgehogs, rabbits, coatis, sugar gliders, guinea pigs, deer, alpaca, and wallabies.” Each of these individuals is a sentient being with complex emotions and needs.
On September 23, 2022, the USDA confiscated two “minimally responsive” animals from Kokas. The day before, inspectors had found that a Bennett’s wallaby had rough, wet-sounding breathing; was unable to lift his head; and was cold to the touch. Kokas’ veterinarian allegedly refused to treat the animal because he lacked sufficient knowledge about wallabies.
The USDA also confiscated a striped skunk who was slow and sluggish and had swelling in her mouth. She had saliva covering her face and chest, which could indicate disease or oral wounds.
Shortly after the confiscations, the USDA suspended Kokas’ license for 21 days.
The Details of Kokas’ Seedy Dealings
Kokas’ 113 alleged violations are best summarized by these revealing details:
- He repeatedly failed to assess animals’ health and well-being adequately, resulting in dozens being found in need of veterinary evaluation and treatment. Several displayed abnormal behavior, indicating “pain, psychological stress, or poor welfare.”
- He was performing surgical de-scenting procedures on skunks without veterinary oversight or providing post-procedural care and pain control.
- Animals were kept in enclosures that were filthy, permeable to moisture, not structurally sound enough to protect them from injury, or not large enough for them to have adequate freedom of movement.
- Kokas repeatedly failed to provide hundreds of animals with adequate shelter to protect them from inclement weather and prevent discomfort from local climatic conditions. He also repeatedly neglected to drain excess water from enclosures, forcing animals to stand in muddy bogs.
- Some animals were confined near their natural predators, which caused “extreme stress.”
- Kokas failed multiple times to provide animals with clean drinking water, appropriate food, and clean feeding receptacles.
- He repeatedly refused inspectors access to facilities and/or records and repeatedly failed to maintain adequate acquisition or disposition records, which meant that the USDA was unable to assess the animals’ welfare.
- He repeatedly failed to erect a perimeter fence. Two arctic foxes escaped and were never recovered. Dogs were able to breach a sika deer enclosure, which ultimately led to the escape of two fawns.
Based on this complaint, the court could order that Kokas’ license be terminated or revoked, assess civil penalties, and even order that more animals be relinquished.
PETA hopes that Kokas will face hefty penalties for his speciesist ways and will be permanently stripped of his license and barred from ever breeding or selling animals again.
No exotic animals—or any animals—should be forced to endure such neglect and exploitation.
How You Can Help Stop Kokas and Other Breeders: Take Action and Never Buy Animals
For several years, WMRN radio station used Kokas Exotics as a supplier for its annual Groundhog Day event. But PETA celebrated a victory this year when the station did not use a groundhog after we sounded the alarm that collaborating with Kokas would be illegal—since he was not licensed to exhibit, only to breed and sell. However, WMRN has refused to commit to never again using a live groundhog for the event, so we need you to take action:
Never purchase animals—from breeders or anyone else—and take action to end exotic-animal auctions like the Shelby Alternative Livestock Auction that PETA investigators also exposed: