For Immediate Release:
April 5, 2023
David Perle 202-483-7382
Columbus, Ind. – This morning, PETA sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Welfare Operations Director Robert M. Gibbens urging him to investigate WY Reptiles and Exotics operator Andy Watkins for apparently assisting Illinois-based former roadside zoo operator—and one of PETA’s “most wanted animal abusers”—Thomas Edmonds in his attempt to keep animals unlawfully.
PETA notes that Edmonds’ federal license to exhibit animals was canceled in 2021, shortly after he racked up more than 65 citations for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), making it illegal for him to possess certain dangerous wild animals in Illinois. Edmonds then claimed to have transferred “legal ownership” of the tigers, mountain lions, lynx, and primates in his custody to Watkins—but the animals remain in Edmonds’ possession, he continues to refer to them as “his,” and, most obviously, Watkins’ AWA license does not cover Edmonds’ property. There were no animals listed in the most recent inventory on Watkins’ license, so PETA wants the USDA to investigate him for either operating a second, unapproved site at Edmonds’ facility or helping to create false records.
“Andy Watkins appears to have helped a notorious animal exploiter keep dangerous wild animals in his custody unlawfully,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “PETA is urging the feds to investigate and, if warranted, throw the book at him for violating the AWA and sentencing vulnerable animals to further suffering.”
PETA also sent a letter this morning to Illinois Department of Natural Resources Sgt. Dan Greuel and Conservation Police Officer Eric Mieure, calling on them to step in and confiscate the animals from Edmonds. Among his many alleged AWA violations is his repeated failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, including two vervet monkeys and a ring-tailed lemur, who all died, and a young cougar who was extremely thin, exhibiting signs of dehydration, and suffering from diarrhea.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.