Victory! USDA Cracks Down on Craig Kokas

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5 min read

Update (September 6, 2023): Great news! Following a complaint from PETA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has revoked Craig Kokas’ federal license! He is now permanently banned from dealing animals regulated by the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

As of June 2023, Kokas, who does business as Kokas Exotics, had confined 366 animals at his facility and racked up an alleged 113 violations of the AWA in just over a year. Since the USDA complaint that led to his license revocation, he has been hit with numerous other citations for AWA violations, including for failing to provide animals—including a groundhog suffering from a traumatic and severe eye injury—with adequate veterinary care.

Animals in Kokas’ care have been denied the most basic necessities for years on end, and revoking his federal license is the first step toward shutting down this hellhole for good. We’re now calling on him to surrender all his remaining animals to reputable facilities where they could finally get the care they desperately need.

Help Stop Other Breeders: Take Action and Never Buy Animals

For several years, radio station WMRN hired Kokas Exotics as a supplier for its annual Groundhog Day event. It didn’t use a live groundhog last year but has refused to commit to never using one again, 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, which PETA investigators also exposed:

Originally posted on March 9, 2023:

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.

Kokas Exotics baby coatis confined in a filthy cage

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.

Kokas Exotics raccoons confined in a cage

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.

Kokas Exotics striped skunks confined in a cage

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.
a fox in a tiny metal cage with no room to stand up, stretch out, or move. the fox looks anxious.
This fox had no room in this tiny cage to stand up, turn around, or stretch normally. Kokas breeds animals to be sold at exotic animal auctions like this Mt. Hope Auction in Ohio.

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.

Kokas Exotics baby groundhogs huddled together in a corner

No exotic animals—or any animals—should be forced to endure such neglect and exploitation.

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