For Immediate Release:
January 25, 2023
Robin Goist 202-483-7382
Marion, Ohio – Is it illegal? WMRN-AM plans to use a groundhog supplied by Kokas Exotics—whose owner, Craig Kokas, is only licensed to breed and sell animals, not to exhibit them, and received 70 federal citations for animal welfare violations in 2022 alone—at its Groundhog Day event. So PETA sent a letter this morning to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to investigate Kokas’ apparent plan to break the law.
Kokas has unlawfully supplied a groundhog for WMRN’s annual events since at least 2017, but when the USDA learned about last year’s display, it cited Kokas for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The agency informed Kokas that he would have to obtain a different license to exhibit animals, but to date, he appears not to have complied.
“Harassing a groundhog in front of a noisy crowd is certainly cruel, but in this case, it’s also illegal,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Welfare Debbie Metzler. “This exhibitor has racked up one animal welfare violation after another, and PETA is calling on the USDA to strip him of his license and take necessary action to stop him from violating the law at WMRN’s studios again.”
PETA has also urged WMRN-AM to commit to groundhog-free events and has placed a billboard across the street from its studios pointing out that groundhogs can’t predict the weather—but they can feel stress when they’re dragged from hibernation, transported to unfamiliar places, and thrust into the hands of humans.
Kokas’ other AWA violations include failing to have a veterinarian treat a raccoon with missing a foot (the wound was left to reopen), holding animals in enclosures with “excessively large accumulations of feces,” and not providing emaciated animals with veterinary intervention. In September, the USDA suspended Kokas’ license for 21 days due to this extensive record of citations.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.