Lawrence Payne Pleads Guilty To Unlawfully Importing Asian Leopard Cats
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – A Kansas man pleaded guilty Wednesday to unlawfully importing endangered leopard cats, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said.
The leopard cat is a small wild cat native to Asia. It is considered as an endangered species under federal law.
Lawrence E. Payne, 34, Olathe, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Endangered Species Act. The investigation began when Payne applied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a breeding license for Asian leopard cats. When investigators served a search warrant at Payne’s home, they found three Asian leopard cats. Payne admitted importing the animals.
Sentencing will be set for a later date. He faces a penalty of up to a year in jail and a fine up to $50,000. McAllister commended the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Oakley for their work on the case.
This is the first time we’ve heard about this person, and all of the info below was provided by Animal Frauds Exposed, who we do not know personally, but the evidence was pretty convincing, so I am posting it here and asking that if you have further evidence, one way or the other, that you let us know in the comments. What I do know for sure is that people show off with wild animals on social sites because ignorant people shower them with attention for it. State and federal agencies move so slowly, if at all, that it is almost never in time to save the animals from years of abuse. The following is a quote from a letter to us dated 9/23/18:
“Alexa ray Alahouzos, also known as “Alexaraywild” on instagram is infamously known for asking for donations via internet for her “wildlife rescue,” Sunshine State Wildlife Sanctuary. Problem is, she has multiple FWC charges in two counties in Florida. In 2017 she pleaded guilty to animal neglect, to keeping foxes in a storage unit. She says it was “only for one day,” but there can be seen many photos on her account showing the animals in that place. She paid the fine and the case was closed.
She is currently facing 9 FWC charges for improper permitting and refusing inspection of an undocumented facility. Maybe one day she will change her ways and be a good example of how to do things the right way. For many “animal lovers,” this is the case. They have the right heart but neglect the rules and reality. But please keep an eye on those who use social media and wildlife for popularity! RESEARCH before you donate! We hope this post raises awareness to private wildlife facilities that are registered, but are not exactly true or legitimate conservation. Save your money and spread awareness!”
All of her records can be publicly found in Palm Beach County Court and Broward Court searches with the name “Alexa Ray Alahouzos”
Michael Holston appears to be a misguided 24-year-old, self-proclaimed “exotic animal specialist” in Miami. He calls himself “King of the Jungle” and “The Real Tarzan” and has said that his goal in life is to “be the next Steve Irwin” by posing with exotic animals. He seems to legitimately loves animals and thinks that he’s teaching the public to love and respect wildlife, but all that he’s really doing is teaching people that exotic animals are nothing more than pets, accessories, or selfie props. Just read the quotes from this article to see what people are “learning:”
“If Holston has proven anything, it’s that animals, especially a baby cougar like this one, can be very docile and fun to be around. They also don’t mind taking selfies with humans.”
“As you can see just from looking at this little one, you can tell that finger monkeys are super cute.”
Holston works at an exotic animal breeder/broker/pet store in Deerfield Beach called Underground Reptiles. This business sells primates, reptiles, and even baby Sand Cats as “pets” in store and online. Underground Reptiles has a pretty bad animal care record and has been criticized by pig rescue groups because they used to keep newborn piglets in aquarium tanks and passed them off as “mini pigs,” telling customers that they would never grow bigger than 30 pounds (which is a lie).
Thanks to Holston’s self-promotion, there are now multiple news/blog articles about Holston fawning over his “lifestyle” and “love for animals,” many of them mentioning that his exotic selfies are going viral because of the fantasy aspect — everybody dreams about being an “animal whisperer” and cuddling wild animals, but not many people bother to think about what that means for the animal — Holston included.
In this article, he explains: “I want to show everybody the smallest wildlife and the most dangerous wildlife. Get close as possible. Hold it, hug it, touch it, kiss it.” Like many animal lovers, Holston seems to believe that as long as you have “true love” for the animal, everything’s OK: “You make yourself a part of the animal’s life. You raise that animal. You trust that animal. You let the animal trust you. No matter how dangerous it is, you have that. Whether you rescued it or whether you took it out of the wild. Look, as long as you’re taking care of these animals at the highest standard, you’re taking great care of them,” he says. “You’re interacting with them. You’re showing them true love.”
I’d definitely keep an eye on Holston, but you might also consider contacting him to see if you can help him see the light. Maybe he can change his ways to make a real positive difference. He’s still young and relatively open minded — the above article also mentions that he “understands the reservations animal rights activists have concerning menageries,” explaining that “It’s a weird stance for me because as I get older, I learn more, and I read more. I get more understanding” and that the longer he works around big cats, the more he understands that they’re dangerous, wild animals.
Exploiting tiger cubs at this roadside bear pit isn’t a new thing. The Cherokee Bear Zoo, owned by Barry Coggins, has bred and kept tigers onsite in pretty poor conditions since at least the late 1990s. Right now, they have at least one adult white tiger and one orange tiger. It looks like they’re trying to breed more white cubs while exploiting the rest for petting.
It looks like right now, they do have at least one cub, named “Stormy”, above, who was three months old at the end of April 2018. Tourists can still pay $20 to pet/take a photo with a cub, so if it’s the same cub, she’d be nearly 5 months old now and too big to use for public contact. Judging by Facebook pictures, it looks like tourists frequently pet cubs much larger than USDA regulations allow. The above photo was posted on April 18th.
These pictures were from previous years (2012-2015), but also show pretty large cubs being used for interaction:
As well as very tiny cubs:
Here’s where their adult white tiger lives — a tiny concrete slab. It looks like there may be sores on its elbows from lying on the concrete.
Where the cubs live:
In August 2017 Cherokee Bear Zoo and Exotic Animals court case showed an appeal, that overturned a prior ruling, that there was no Animal Welfare Act violations regarding the way the animals were kept. Does anyone have further info on this case? Please let us know in the comments below.