Feds Sued for Rubber-Stamping License Application of Dangerous Animal Exhibitor

PETA Lawsuit Takes On License Renewals of Facilities That Violate Animal-Welfare Laws

For Immediate Release:
August 26, 2015

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Kaufman, Texas – PETA filed a lawsuit this morning in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that challenges its policy of automatically renewing federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) licenses. The USDA does this even when the agency knows that the applicants are in violation of the AWA­—such as animal exhibitor Michael Todd, who maintains animals in Kaufman.

The AWA, which the USDA is charged with administering, prohibits licensing a facility that is not operating in accordance with the act. Yet in 2012, Todd purchased white tigers from Kaufman resident Marcus Cook—a notoriously cruel exhibitor whose USDA license was permanently revoked after he was charged with nearly 100 violations of the AWA, including for endangering the lives of animals and the public—and started using Cook’s Kaufman compound without USDA approval. Because Cook’s license was revoked, he cannot legally exhibit animals, but Todd has employed him as his head of tiger care. Cook has also trained Todd’s employees, who participate in many of the same illegal practices that Cook was cited for—including allowing the public to feed tigers with tongs, reach over barriers, and get dangerously close to the tigers.

“The USDA hands out license renewals like Halloween candy to exhibitors who leave caged animals to suffer without veterinary care when they need it,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “PETA is calling on the government to stop rubber-stamping the applications of businesses that abuse animals and break the law.”

Other facilities implicated in PETA’s lawsuit include roadside zoos in Alabama, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

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“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