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Posted on Sep 3, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name, News Feed | 0 comments

Kenny Hetrick

Kenny Hetrick

Kenny Hetrick’s story started well over 40 years ago. Kenny has been a USDA Class C License holder since 1989.  His is the classic case of someone collecting wild animals, because of the attention he gets for it, who does not appear to have the animals’ best interest at heart.

How do we know?

Because in 2012 when the state of Ohio decided to make it harder for people trade in wild animals, and asked for minimal reporting and safety measures from those who already possessed exotic pets, Kenny Hetrick thumbed his nose at the law.  His actions just emboldened other bad actors to refuse to report their animals to the state.  After 40 years of having minimal supervision, he and others with something to hide, thought they could out wait the government because before now so little had ever been done to force compliance.

He fought the law and the law won.

He continues to fight but it seems to be more about his pride than about what is good for the animals.  Accredited sanctuaries have been willing from the very beginning to give permanent and loving homes to the animals if Kenny Hetrick would just stop trading in wild animals.  Most obnoxious has been that he allows Stumphill Farms to dump last year’s Obie Tigers on him so that they don’t have to provide lifetime care after renting cubs out for Massillon football games.

These are just a few of the stories on the issue:

 

It’s all about Kenny…not the animals

From Save Tigerridge Exotics Facebook page:

“Meet The Stony Ridge Tiger Man!

Kenny Hetrick has had a passion for exotic animals since the age of 10. Kenny’s devotion for exotic animals began in Florida, as an active volunteer at the Tarpon Zoo …”

The drug and exotic animal smuggling at the Tarpon Zoo was legendary.

 

State Moves Cats to Sanctuaries Pending Court Decision

 

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has transferred the exotic animals removed from Tiger Ridge Exotics to three out-of-state wildlife sanctuaries, ODA stated in court filings Tuesday.

The 10 animals were sent last week to facilities in Arizona, South Dakota, and Florida while their owner Kenneth Hetrick and the state resolve a case in Wood County Common Pleas Court regarding their care, according to a notice filed in that court.

A liger and a cougar were transferred to Keepers of the Wild in Valentine, Ariz. Three tigers and a leopard went to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla., and three tigers and a Kodiak bear went to Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Spearfish, S.D.

Transfers began Aug. 27 and all animals have arrived at the respective facilities, said ODA spokesman Erica Hawkins. The state continues to have custody of the animals and is contracting with the sanctuaries for temporary care.

The animals had been in a state facility in Reynoldsburg, near Columbus. State agents seized the animals, along with a lion that has since died, on Jan. 28 from the Stony Ridge property because Mr. Hetrick had not obtained a permit to keep the animals as required by state law. The lion was killed in April because of health problems.

“The department has always been very clear that the Reynoldsburg facility was designed to provide high-quality but temporary care,” Ms. Hawkins said in a statement, adding that the animals are “acclimating very, very well to their new environments.”

…Mr. Hetrick filed an emergency motion in June calling for the animals to be returned to Tiger Ridge while the case continues because the state facility was not suited for long-term care. ODA officials agreed that the Reynoldsburg site was meant to be temporary but said the animals were in good health while they were there.

In an Aug. 14 order by Judge Reeve Kelsey, the court ruled against Mr. Hetrick’s emergency motion, finding “the inadequacies of the ODA holding facility do not rise to the level of requiring the immediate return of the animals to Tiger Ridge.”

Mr. Hetrick has four appeals pending regarding the seizure and transfer of his animals, one in Franklin County and three in Wood County.

 

http://www.toledoblade.com/State/2015/09/02/10-seized-animals-are-moved-out-of-state.html

 

State action against Tiger Ridge is upheld

5/9/2015

REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — A hearing officer for the first of three administrative hearings in the ongoing case of Tiger Ridge Exotics has made a recommendation in favor of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Andrew Cooke, a private attorney contracted by the department as an impartial hearing examiner, said the Jan. 27 transfer order requiring 11 large exotic animals owned by Kenny Hetrick of Stony Ridge be placed in state custody was proper and should be maintained.

State agents seized a lion, six tigers, a black leopard, a liger, a cougar, and a Kodiak bear Jan. 28 because Mr. Hetrick had not obtained a permit to keep the animals as required by state law. The animals are being held at a temporary holding facility in Reynoldsburg.
Mr. Cooke’s recommendation dated Tuesday said Mr. Hetrick’s possession of wild animals without a state permit violated the law, “and his care and housing of the animals was potentially dangerous to him, the public, and the animals.”

The report cites a Nov. 7 departmental inspection of Mr. Hetrick’s property off Fremont Pike showing a number of deficiencies, including improper fencing, dirty water bowls, and open padlocks used to secure chains around enclosure gates.

Mr. Hetrick has made significant improvements since January with the help of donors and volunteers, including added fencing and new water bowls and shelters.

“I’ve got more than enough done,” he said. “Everything they said, plus. Everything we have, we made new again. All we have to do is get the animals back.”

Mr. Cooke said those improvements were made after the order was issued and therefore have no bearing on whether the order was proper.

Erica Hawkins, spokesman for the department of agriculture, said Mr. Hetrick will have 10 days to file any objections to the hearing examiner’s recommendation.

“Then the report, recommendation, and any filed objections will be submitted to the [department] director to make a final determination,” she said. “Once that determination has been made, a final order will be issued.”

Such an order can then be appealed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

Mr. Hetrick said he has always anticipated having to have to take the matter to court.

“They’ll never be agreeable with us,” he said. “They’re trying to break me, to drag this out until there’s no money left. We’re not going to give up.”

The elderly lion, Leo, was killed April 13 for health reasons. Mrs. Hawkins said all of the remaining animals are in good health and doing well.

Mr. Hetrick’s veterinarian, Dr. Richard Carstensen of East Suburban Animal Clinic, visited the Reynoldsburg facility April 20. In a handwritten statement Dr. Carstensen provided the department and obtained by The Blade, the veterinarian notes the holding facility is appropriate for housing Mr. Hetrick’s animals and provides adequate space for them.

“I was impressed by the airy feeling in the building,” Dr. Carstensen wrote. “There were no odors present. All the animals seem content and appear to be in good body condition.”

The second administrative hearing on the state’s proposed denial of Mr. Hetrick’s application for a rescue-facility permit is slated to continue Monday for a fourth day. The third hearing on the proposed denial of a second application for a wildlife-shelter permit is scheduled for the end of the month.

Contact Alexandra Mester: amester@theblade.com, 419-724-6066, or on Twitter @AlexMesterBlade.

BY ALEXANDRA MESTER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2015/05/09/State-action-against-Tiger-Ridge-is-upheld.html

 

4/22/15

In total, six tigers, a bear, a lion, a cougar, a black leopard and a liger (part lion, part tiger) were taken from Kenny Hetrick’s Stony Ridge farm

State officials found he didn’t have the right permit and cages were ‘unsafe’

An exotic animal owner from Ohio is campaigning for his bear and big cats to be returned after they were seized by the state in January.

In total, six tigers, a bear, a lion, a cougar, a black leopard and a liger (part lion, part tiger) were taken from Kenny Hetrick’s Stony Ridge farm after it was found he did not have the correct permit and cages were ‘unsafe’.

Authorities have also started cracking down on the owners of wild creatures following an incident in 2011 where a man in eastern Ohio released 56 exotic animals – including lions and tigers – then killed himself.

Apparently Hetrick has been heartbroken by the clampdown on his farm and the 72-year-old widower is now fighting to overturn the seizure, backed by neighbors who insist his menagerie doesn’t pose a threat.

However, the 2011 incident mentioned earlier pushed Ohio to tighten regulations on ‘private zoos’.

Owners are now required to have sturdy cages, background checks and insurance before receiving an annual permit.

Since the beginning of last year, Ohio has issued permits to 54 exotic animal enthusiasts.
The agriculture department says that it tried, but that he never responded to letters sent over a span of two years with the permit application materials until last October, nine months after the deadline, when it gave him ten days to surrender his animals.

State officials in January rejected his application for a permit, which includes a $1,000 fee, saying it submitted was too late.

They also said state inspectors who visited the sanctuary outside Toledo last November discovered the tigers could stand on their housing and get dangerously near the top of their cages.

The inspection noted there were unsecured padlocks and chains and not enough fencing around an enclosure holding a tiger and black leopard.

‘If motivated, it would be very easy for either of those two animals to escape,’ said Melissa Simmerman, assistant state veterinarian.

Hetrick, whose pickup truck has ‘Tiger Man’ painted on the side, disputes those assertions.

‘Nothing’s ever got loose. Not in almost 40 years,’ he said. ‘Nobody’s ever been bit. Nobody’s been hurt.’

The Ohio Department of Agriculture has a duty to protect the public’s safety, spokeswoman Erica Hawkins said.

‘Just because an animal’s never gotten out, doesn’t mean that an animal couldn’t get out,’ she said.

Hetrick is appealing the department’s rejection of his permit application and a hearing is scheduled for next week, but the fight will probably continue in court no matter what a state panel decides.

Until then, the ten animals – a lion named Leo that had been in failing health was euthanized by the state last week – will remain a two-hour drive away outside Columbus, in a high-security building operated by the state.

PETA RESPONSE TO THE SITUATION

‘Today, the Ohio Department of Agriculture did the right thing by seizing the wild animals at Tiger Ridge Exotics who have been held illegally and long neglected.

Now, it’s been reported that the animals will possibly have to endure the stress of being tranquilized again and moved back to the roadside zoo—a potentially life-threatening move.

This is a selfish stunt to prevent the animals from being sent to a sanctuary where they would finally receive the care that they so desperately need.

PETA is calling on the facility to do the right thing and allow these animals to enjoy a peaceful life at a reputable sanctuary where their needs would come first.’

Supporters of Hetrick believe the animals – only the wolf wasn’t seized because it doesn’t fall under the exotic animal law – have been mistreated and will not survive long outside their home. State officials insist they are fine.

Hetrick doesn’t have formal training with wild animals, but he has been around them about 60 years, since he was a ten-year-old volunteer cleaning cages at a zoo in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

His love for wild creatures grew when he moved to Ohio. He first brought home an ocelot, often called a dwarf leopard.

‘I tell people don’t start with a tiger if you don’t know what you’re doing,’ he said.

He and his wife, who died four years ago, spent much of the money he made as an auto worker and police officer on the animals. Even with donations, food alone for the tigers and others cost as much as $15,000 annually in recent years.

Their collection multiplied, often when others dropped off unwanted pets. His daughter, Corrina Hetrick, remembers going out to catch the school bus only to find an alligator swimming in a kiddie pool.

There also was the time a black panther showed up in the back of a pickup truck.

‘I didn’t have cats and dogs,’ she said. ‘I had bears and tigers.’

Even the circus camped at his two-acre property while traveling between shows. ‘We had elephants in the backyard and contortionists in the living room,’ she said.

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3050012/Tiger-Man-fights-return-seized-animals-sanctuary.html#ixzz3kE4zfyUT

 

4/18/15

 

STONY RIDGE – The ODA cited the Jan. 13 denial exotic animal permit and that a recent inspection of the five-acre facility revealed a failure “to comply with caging requirements needed for public safety and care standards intended to protect the animals” under the Ohio Revised Code.

“Leo was humanely euthanized Monday afternoon after experiencing complications from his chronic hip issues,” Erica Hawkins, Communications Director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said in an email sent to the News Herald on Friday morning.

“Last week, department animal health staff began to observe signs of prolonged lateral recumbency, loss of appetite, increased rate of breathing and decreased ability to move,” Hawkins email said.

Dr. Tony Forshey, the State Veterinarian, and Assistant State Vet Dr. Melissa Simmerman consulted with Dr. Richard Carstensen, Leo’s long time vet and Dr. Randall Judge, Vice President of Animal Health for the Columbus Zoo and The Wilds, the email said.

“The lion was documented to be weak in the rear end and not walking correctly as far back as August 28, 2014, (a year ago) by an inspector of the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” the email said. “All four vets recommended to humanely euthanize the lion given his condition, how long he had been declining, and that his ailment was irreversible.

According to Hawkins, the other 10 animals are still being cared for by the state in Reynoldsburg and are “still thriving and in good general health.”

Corrina believes Leo’s death adds fuel to the fire in their fight to get the other 10 animals back to Tiger Ridge.

The sanctuary broke the news to supporters through a Facebook post on Monday, viewed by more than 450,000 people from around the world, Hetrick said.

Since the animals were seized in January, more than 10,000 letters have been sent to Gov. John Kasich to return the animals to the Stony Ridge facility.

“I’ve written every day,” Hetrick said. “I’ve invited him to come to Tiger Ridge. I’ve gotten only one reply saying he would not meet with me, with no reasoning.”

Hetrick said she had also reached out to the ODA to inspect the facility again. She said they’ve spent more than $86,000 in upgrades and in attorney fees in the last two months.

“If they would just come out, they would see we’re compliant,” she said. “They won’t come out. They won’t send us pictures, they won’t let our attorney or our veterinarian inspect them.”

Hetrick said she had received condolences from supporters around the country for those at Tiger Ridge who are mourning Leo’s death. Many of them include photographs of lit candles with Leo’s picture.

“It hits a nerve with people,” she said. “People know you don’t treat God’s creatures like that.”

A memorial service for Leo was planned at Tiger Ridge for 6 p.m on Saturday.

jdenton@gannett.com

419-734-7506

Twitter: @jessicadentonNH

http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com/story/news/local/2015/04/17/lion-seized-tiger-ridge-oda-euthanized/25966993/

 

This video was taken about 15 years ago. Tiger Ridge had 8 Tiger Cubs at the same time. Shown here playing with Roberta and Merissa Coffman. Several of these cats were purchased by a trainer for the movie “Gladiator.” They are tight lipped about the names of the cubs, so it makes one wonder if they have all died.  15 is not so very old for a tiger.  Where are they now?

 

1/30/15

STONY RIDGE, Ohio — Among a host of exotic animals seized Wednesday by the Ohio Department of Agriculture were four tigers used as “Obie” mascots at Massillon Washington High School football games.

For now the former mascots are in legal limbo, sitting in holding facilities near Columbus after a Wood County judge ordered an injunction against the warrant used in the seizure, which the state has appealed.

When the legal wrangling ends, however, private non-profit organizations will be left on their own to cover the cost of transporting the animals across the nation, to accredited animal sanctuaries as far away as California. One tiger alone may cost a sanctuary over $200,000 over its lifetime.

The Massillon tigers were kept by Kenny Hetrick, the owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, who has fought state authorities to keep his Toledo-area exotic animal farm open despite 2013 permit laws aimed at shutting down exotic animal breeders.

Hetrick applied for a permit but was denied. The Department of Agriculture cited Hetrick’s tardiness and dangerous metal cages in its letter of denial.

Non-profits left to care for seized exotics

More than 3,000 miles away, in Alpine, California, Bobbi Brink is waiting to see if she will be making a drive to Ohio to pick up Hetrick’s animals and move them to her accredited sanctuary, called Lions, Tigers and Bears.

If and when the Department of Agriculture overcomes Wednesday’s court injunction, the state plans to release Hetrick’s animals to out-of-state sanctuaries. The transportation will extend into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Brink’s sanctuary builds habitats without any assistance from the state of Ohio or Hetrick, and her sanctuary will be on the hook to pay about $10,000 per year to keep the animals alive, in addition to covering the cost of operating the sanctuary.

“It is really a lot to take care of these animals, people don’t realize just how much these animals cost,” Brink said.

Lions, Tigers and Bears has already assisted in transporting more than 60 exotic animals from Ohio, mostly from owners who were keeping them in their back yards.

The animals there are not bred, per the rules of internationally-accredited sanctuaries, and live in large zoo-like habitats, Brink said.

Ohio a ‘breeding ground’ for exotic animals

Ohio is ground zero for Brink and others who run animal sanctuaries. That is because, until recently, Ohio had the least restrictive exotic animal trade in the country, Brink said.

“Ohio was like a breeding ground for these animals,” Brink said. “The animals aren’t properly cared for, like the public believes they are, they are just not.”

Animals including lions and tigers could be bred by private owners, kept in cages, traded and sold. After a mentally ill man released over 60 wild animals into the streets of Zanesville in 2011, the state passed laws banning such sales and requiring strict permits for facilities that keep exotic animals.

Lawmakers granted Massillon Washington High School Booster Club a specific exemption from the law, however, and the booster club remains the only entity in the state that can accept exotic animals.

A new tiger cub is brought in each year to serve as the Obie mascot before being returned back into exotic animal farms, such as Tiger Ridge.

The issue of where those tiger cubs go after the football season has led activists and animal rights organizations to protest the Massillon tradition.

“This is just one example of the mess that these tigers end up in,” said Amanda Whelan, a California woman whose online petition asking Massillon Boosters to stop using live clubs has gathered over 78,000 signatures. “The state has no money to take care of these animals. It falls to the graces of caring people to come up with the means to take care of these tigers.”

The booster club has been unable to produce records showing where 44 years of former mascot tigers are, Whelan said. The Ohio Department of Agriculture said it has no way of telling where the four former “Obie” tigers it seized have been.

http://www.cleveland.com/akron/index.ssf/2015/01/four_former_massillon_obie_mas.html

 

1/28/15

 

ODA Seized the Animals

 

Appx 1/2015

Amanda Whelan starts and online petition that gets more than 150,000 people to ask the Ohio Department of Agriculture to seize Kenny Hetrick’s animals before he can make good on his threat to kill them.

Screen Shot 2015-08-29 at 4.37.50 PM

The petition states:  “After ignoring a new state law requiring him to upgrade his facilities and enclosures for his wild animal sanctuary, owner Kenny Hetrick threatened to euthanize all his animals: an endangered black leopard, six endangered tigers, two lions, a brown bear, a liger and a bobcat. Tiger Ridge Exotics has publicly documented USDA violations and was once an exotic animal breeding facility.

The state gave Hetrick until Oct 22 to turn over his animals, and media reports made it clear he would have rather killed his animals than turn them over to the State. Attempts by numerous accredited sanctuaries waiting to rehome the animals in far better facilities have been ignored by Mr. Hetrick. We do not know how much time he was given to comply.

Multiple times Hetrick has threatened to kill the animals which is not acceptable or to be taken lightly. Please tell the State of Ohio to follow the law, secure the facility and make sure no harm comes to these innocent animals before they can be rehomed into licensed, proper sanctuaries to live out the rest of their lives. Thank you.”

 

10/15/14

Owner asks state for time (2 years after the law passed)

STONY RIDGE, Ohio — A local exotic-animal rescuer has retained legal counsel and asked for more time to get in compliance with state regulations.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture sent a letter to Tiger Ridge Exotics off Fremont Pike in Stony Ridge last week with a 10-day ultimatum to either surrender the animals to the state or the animals will be seized and owner Kenny Hetrick will face charges in Perrysburg Municipal Court.

Mr. Hetrick has not obtained a permit as required by an exotic animal law enacted in 2012. He has six tigers and a black leopard, which are considered endangered animals; two lions, a Kodiak brown bear, a liger, a bobcat, and a wolf hybrid.

 

Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2014/10/14/Owner-asks-state-for-time.html

 

10/13/14

 

The Hetrick family irrationally states on Facebook, “look into the Zanesville incident. It’s not what you seen on tv. This man was murdered in cold blood his animals were murdered in cold blood to further the states agenda to ban exotic animals..period.”  She goes on to ask for money and asks people to stand up for their rights and roar against the state of Ohio.  The only people drinking that Koolaid are those who are pimping out animals or the Johns that pay to fondle them.

 

10/10/14

 

The Hetrick’s started a petition to try and raise money, saying, “…we just recieved (SIC) notice that we have 10 days as of Oct 8th to surrender the animals or be criminally charged.”

 

2/4/14

 

Hetricks post on Facebook, “the attorney that all the exotic animal owners retained got banned from practice in ohio for 60 days”

 

11/21/13

 

Hetricks post on Facebook, “we are trying to get money together to apply for the rescue permit. $1,000 is the cost. nonrefundable if get turned down, figure that one out. If anyone would like to donate please send check to Kenny Hetrick 5359 fremont pike Perrysburg oh 43551. we also have joined the OAAO in attaining an attorney to help fight these laws.”

Later they said they never filled out the application because they didn’t want to lose the $1,000 if convicted of perjury.

 

7/15/13

 

Kenny Hetrick’s daughter, Corrinne, starts a Facebook page called Save Tigerridge Exotics that is dedicated almost entirely to fund raising and opposing the recently passed ban.

 

6/6/2012

 

Ohio passes a ban on the private possession of dangerous wild animals.  Current owners are allowed to keep their exotic animals but would be required to obtain a state-issued permit by 2014.  Exotic animal owners decide to band together and try to fight the new law, rather than register their animals.

 

8/25/11

Exotic animal owner faces down the feds

A Stony Ridge man is in trouble with the feds again— over his exotic animals.

USDA investigators grilled Kenny Hetrick for more than three hours Thursday afternoon, less than a year after telling him he’d have to improve his fencing. Hetrick spent $40,000 last fall and volunteers raced a six-week deadline to comply but built it four feet short of the necessary height.

 

4/13/06

Yes, that says 2006, because that’s how long it takes USDA to respond to complaints.  In this case, it appears USDA never followed up.

 

The Animal Protection Institute filed a complaint with the United States Department of Agriculture against Kenny Hetrick, owner of Tiger Ridge Exotics, 5359 Fremont Pike, saying Hetrick recklessly endangers visitors by exposing them to grizzly bears, lions and tigers.

Nicole Paquette, API spokeswoman, said two of her group’s inspectors recently visited Tiger Ridge Exotics and witnessed Hetrick open cage doors without providing a buffer between the animals and visitors.

“These animals present public safety and health threats,” Paquette said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

 

More at http://bigcatrescue.org/api-files-complaint-against-tiger-ridge-exotics/

 

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Posted on Aug 29, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Jungle Adventures Christmas Florida

JUNGLE ADVENTURES INC
Customer No: 3094
Certificate No: 58-C-1048
Certificate Status: ACTIVE
Status Date: Apr 3, 2012

26205 E COLONIAL DR

CHRISTMAS ,FL 32709
COUNTY: ORANGE

USDA Violations 9- 2015

USDA Violations 12- 2014

USDA Violations 4- 2014

USDA Violations 8- 2013

USDA Violations 6- 2013

USDA Violations 5- 2013

USDA Violations 1- 2013

USDA Violations 1b- 2013

USDA Violations 9- 2012

 

Census as of 6/9/15

1 CANADIAN LYNX ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
2 COYOTE ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
1 FALLOW DEER ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
2 HEDGEHOG ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
2 NORTH AMERICAN BLACK BEAR ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
2 RED FOX ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
1 SERVAL ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
2 SOUTHERN OPOSSUM ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
3 WHITETAILED DEER ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
2 DOG ADULT DOGS
3 RHESUS MACAQUE *MALE NONHUMAN PRIMATES
2 RING-TAILED LEMUR NONHUMAN PRIMATES
7 PUMA WILD/EXOTIC FELINES

 

Visitors report that the exotic cat cages are over crowded and inappropriate for cats, using concrete floors and giving the animals no way to hide.  If you have seen unsatisfactory conditions or see that citations above have not been corrected, please send a formal, written complaint to the USDA, the Florida Wildlife Commission and Big Cat Rescue.

 

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Posted on Aug 29, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name, News Feed | 0 comments

Jungle Mike Tsalickis

How a 1988 cocaine bust in Pinellas County brought down Jungle Mike

It was a terrific amount of drugs for such a small harbor, the kind of haul people associate with Miami.

Someone had smuggled literally tons of cocaine onto the dock at St. Petersburg’s Bayboro Harbor: 7,300 pounds, Customs announced, when it finished guiding each cedar plank through the X-ray machine to see the kilos inside. The tally went down in history as the largest U.S. seizure for which an arrest had been made, although in the end, the fact of who was arrested may prove the more impressive measure.

It’s not easy to overshadow the legend of Jungle Mike.

The legend has been told before, in Saga and True magazines, in National Geographic and Reader’s Digest. There were countless mentions in newspapers, others in books, and once, after the edges of the story had grown tattered, a thinly disguised feature film.

But by all accounts no one tells it quite like Mike Tsalickis himself.

“I enjoyed listening to him on cross examination,” says Terry Furr, the assistant U.S. Attorney who put Tsalickis away for 27 years. “He’s the kind of guy, under different circumstances I would have liked to get a couple of beers with him, just to hear the stories.”

The stories are about Leticia, the Colombian frontier town the man from Tarpon Springs all but founded; about giant snakes, which he wrestled for tourists; about gullible Italians, who seem to believe that he actually stalked, shot and ate the Indians who would have died without the hospital he built for them, way back in the bush.

When the DEA agents come around now, though, they don’t seem interested in any of that. They file in past the guard station at Talladega Federal Correctional Institution, past the sign reading “Count Your Keys,” and take seats opposite prisoner 08482-18, wearing khakis instead of his trademark Tarpon Zoo T-shirt. Then they bore in, pressing for names, demanding “bodies,” reminding Tsalickis that, for a man in his 60s, 27 years should sound the same as life.

And after listening for a few hours they leave, as they have a half dozen times before, without hearing the only story that matters any more, and the one tale Tsalickis does not want to tell:

How, exactly, the most famous gringo in the western Amazon came to be ensnared by the narcotics trade he so famously loathed.

 

He was an American success story of the first order, the eldest son of immigrants growing up just above the Tarpon Springs docks where his father worked as a sponge diver. At 15, Michael Tsalickis was an Eagle scout. At 17, World War II having lifted most young men out of Tarpon, he was the scoutmaster. He talked a cashier into starting a cub scout pack while bagging groceries after school at the All American Market.

He talked the same cashier, Trudie Jerkins, into starting a zoo.

En route to 102 merit badges, Tsalickis had discovered, at Reptiles, a strong affinity for snakes. Once in the Everglades he claims to have bagged 2,000 in two nights by standing on a road during a hurricane. They came like a stampede with the rising water, and though afterward his arms looked like hamburger none of the bites was poisonous.

Tsalickis (the “T” is silent) was careful. The teetotaling that in future years friends would point to as evidence of his rectitude, and which so set him apart in Latin America, was in fact a precaution. Tsalickis never drank because holding a snake requires total concentration; he knew drinkers who got bitten, and he planned a career trading animals.

After a stint in the Army, where he bought a pair of lion cubs, Mike had Trudie start buying the land for what would become the old Tarpon Zoo on U.S. 19 while he set out for Mexico, then Honduras and Costa Rica, then the Caribbean coast of Colombia.

“But then I wanted something more exotic,” he said.

He found it in Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon, where he also found plenty of other animal traders. So he headed upstream and 1,800 miles later, the legend goes, happened upon Leticia.

Tsalickis was back in Colombia, though barely. The village _ with 800 people in 1953, it hardly qualified as a city _ dangled on the notch of Colombia that hangs between Brazil and Peru, a muddy, dissolute outpost distinguished only as the country’s southernmost point and sole Amazon access. Over the next 20 years its growth was driven above all by Tsalickis.

The animals he expected to be so plentiful were not. To gather enough for export to zoos and pet stores, Tsalickis had to boat up and down the river teaching Indians to trap ocelots, bushmasters, tarantulas and the monkeys they had been killing for food. At one point he had 600 families harvesting wildlife. The pesos he paid they took into Leticia to spend.

“It takes a monkey to buy pants in Leticia,” Tsalickis remembers. “Takes a monkey to buy a shirt in Leticia.”

Five hundred miles from the nearest Colombian road, Tsalickis extended the runway that had been used by only occasional military planes, then persuaded St. Petersburg’s ASA freight line to brave landings. Before long he also lured a Brazilian airline and one from Colombia, then acquired his own plane. He brought in his own generator. He set up a sno-cone concession, squirting colored syrup onto brown ice frozen from riverwater.

He started, to his great credit, a hospital.

Within years the town’s population swelled to a size that could no longer be ignored by cartographers. Mike Tsalickis had literally put Leticia on the map. The U.S. ambassador came down from Bogota to make him diplomatic counsel.

“His story shows vividly how a courageous individual with faith in himself and in the challenge of free enterprise can lift the standard of living in an entire region,” Scott and Kathleen Seegers wrote in “Mike’s Revolution,” the Americas magazine article that Reader’s Digest reprinted in May 1966 as “One-Man Revolution on the Amazon.”

The illustration was a drawing of Mike wrestling an anaconda, a snake that can grow to 30 feet and crushes its prey in its coils. The trick, Tsalickis told the reporters who beat a trail to the best story in that part of the world, was to keep the snake in the shallows. “If he gets you into the deep water, you’re through,” he said.

When National Geographic filmed the spectacle (“but the fast-moving herpetologist won the struggle”), Tsalickis made the footage a regular feature for the tourists at the hotel he built. Business was good and, to a large extent, business was Mike Tsalickis, who eschewed advertising for word of mouth. It was excellent.

Michael Herr, who a few years later produced one of the most knowing books on Vietnam, Dispatches, wrote of Tsalickis in 1968: “He is shrewd and tough, but he is constitutionally honest, devoid of brutality, and so kind that much of his income disappears among the local Indians, the townspeople and whatever down-and-outers find their way to Leticia.”

In 1971 one of those vagabonds was Bob Bailey. Knocking around South America after quitting his job as a stockbroker, Bailey heard about Tsalickis from his sister, who had stopped in Leticia for six months. Bailey would stay two years, though in that time the reality he discovered was a good deal more complicated than the Gringo Savior story that played so well in the popular press. To Bailey, the western Amazon that Mike Tsalickis called home looked less like a spread in True than the motley, vaguely hallucinogenic world of missionaries and gunrunners Peter Matthiessen drew in his novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord.

For starters, there was Monkey Island, the name Tsalickis gave a 1,000 acre Amazon island where he put 3,000 squirrel monkeys, followed by a small hotel. Through careful management, he told the tourists he ferried there, the primate population had grown to 12,000. The idea was to refresh the species he might be accused of depleting through his latest business: exporting primates to the research laboratories of U.S. pharmaceutical companies.

It was important work, both to Tsalickis, who got about $50 per monkey, and to medicine. The squirrel monkey has a coronary system enough like those of humans to lead North Carolina researchers to an important discovery: that a tendency toward high or low cholesterol can be inherited.

But Bailey, now an anthropology professor at UCLA, was more interested in how the monkeys behaved in groups. He began his new career by counting the monkeys on Monkey Island. The actual number, he found, was not the 12,000 Tsalickis claimed but 900.

“He was irate,” Bailey says of Tsalickis’s reaction to this news, “but he still let me continue my work.”

There were other curiosities.

Tsalickis tells of the morning an agitated kitchen helper breathlessly reported that a hotel guest had just eaten 19 pancakes. The guest, a fat man who was invited to keep eating, led Tsalickis to believe he was with the CIA.

In light of what was going on upstream in Peru, it was not a strange belief. Tsalickis learned early on to spot American intelligence agents by their attire. “I’m always a little suspicious,” he says, “of a guy who shows up in a nice suit in the jungle.” Tsalickis never put much stock in the stories that U.S. agents were in the Amazon training soldiers to do battle with the Cuban communist Che Gueverra. But it was an open secret that the CIA was the real owner of the Amazon Drug Co., an Iquitos, Peru firm that paid for the legitimate research of legitimate scientists, including a young botanist on his way to becoming the world’s foremost authority on the coca plant.

Coca, of course, is the raw material for cocaine, which is produced by a three-stage process that begins in the coca fields of Peru and continued, at least in the late 1960s, in cocaine factories near Bogota. For traffickers, the preferred route from one stage to the next ran through the porous border region of Leticia. More and more often, as the ’60s gave way to the ’70s, people there noticed fast boats running up and down the river from Peru.

About the same time, Tsalickis began losing his most valuable guides, the ones who knew the river best, to jobs that paid ten times what he could.

“I knew what was going on,” he says. “I’m not dumb.”

In the files of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, every newly logged suspected trafficker is assigned a number. It’s a computer thing, a way of keeping track of individuals in a world of aliases and anonymity, but it doubles as a crude guide to how long someone has been under suspicion.

A person who came to the agency’s attention today, for instance, would be assigned a relatively long identification number: They’re now all the way up to eight digits. Michael Tsalickis’ has only five.

“You never see five,” says prosecutor Furr, deeply impressed.

But those who knew Tsalickis _ and Leticia _ at close range were not surprised at all.

“There were always rumors about Mike,” says Jesse Burks, who carried a folder bulging with them the day he arrived in Leticia in 1969. Burks was a criminal investigator for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, stationed in South America. His office had a sign on the door advising, “Ye Who Enter Here Abandon All Hope,” and a shrunken head on the wall. For several tense days he concentrated his attentions on Tsalickis’ books.

In the end he announced that the government owed Jungle Mike a $3,000 refund.

“If he was paranoid, he had some data,” says Bob Cooper, who first met Tsalickis in 1963 as an agent of the San Diego Zoo.

He says Tsalickis stood out like a sore thumb in the rumor-infested jungle, widely resented for the work ethic he displayed in an area where taking it easy was the norm. The fact that he exported animals, enriching himself on the country’s natural resources, could also go against him in the popular imagination.

“He was certainly on the edge of some things,” says Cooper, voicing an observation repeated by other visiting scientists, “but it really involved his companies and his planes. I don’t think anybody ever nailed him on a serious animal violation in Colombia, and they talked about these “things’ that you really never saw a sign of.”

Bailey remembers Tsalickis’ appetite for the minor scam, colluding with pilots to keep a planeload of passengers overnight at his hotels by discovering “mechanical difficulties” on a layover. He also recalls that early in the drug trade Tsalickis was approached with a few kilos to smuggle on one of his planes.

“He refused. He was disgusted,” Bailey remembers. “Mike is essentially a Florida redneck. He hated hippies. He hated drugs. He was disgusted by people who smoked cigarettes!”

It’s the consensus of those who were in Leticia in the early years of drug trafficking: For Mike Tsalickis to become a coke lord, he would have to change as much as the town he made.

And it did change. When he flew back to the states in 1974, on a plane with 13,000 parakeets, Bailey counted one seaplane, one high powered boat and one drug dealer in Leticia.

Visting ten years later, he found 16 float planes and more 120 horsepower speedboats than he could count. The big man was not a drug dealer but the Mestizo the dealers hired to count their money. He was introduced as the only honest man in town.

Burks, who returned often before his retirement from IRS (eventually going to work as Tsalickis’ accountant), remembers seeing people he remembered as living in shacks on one trip walking down the street with handfuls of money the next.

Tsalickis himself, meanwhile, fell on hard times. In the mid ’70s Colombia banned wild animal exports, knocking out his primary livelihood. His response was to push the tourist trade harder than ever, but business was slow, and Tsalickis’ lawyers advised filing for bankruptcy.

His name, he says, simply meant too much to him. “Here is Mike Tsalickis, the great Mike Tsalickis, busted!” Instead he persevered and worked off his debts until 1979, when he moved his family _ his second Latin American wife and six kids, two by his first marriage _ back to Tarpon Springs.

If ever he was ripe for a career in the drug trade, this was the time, Tsalickis says. He was broke, bored and extraordinarily well-connected, but he resisted temptation, he says, and went into legitimate import-export at the urging of a pal he reached, after just two weeks away from the bush, by phone in Bogota.

“Everybody’s up here from Leticia, and they’re all drunk,” the friend reported. “They all got money!”‘

The cargoes Tsalickis began shipping were one more testament to an altered culture. In the 1950s mostly flour and lard came out of the ship holds. Now he filled a boat with 5,000 cases of whiskey, 30,000 of beer, motorbikes, champagne and 20 cases of perfume.

It was lucrative, like a Miami Porsche dealership, but like the dealership kept the businessman removed from the drug industry itself. To Tsalickis it was a crucial distance, one he had taken pains to establish in the late 1960s when the first fast boats were running. He put out the word to one and all that trafficking was not to be discussed around him, that his profile was too high.

“I don’t want to hear it”‘ was his slogan, Tsalickis says. “That’s the only thing that kept me alive.”

The mystery of how he happens to be explaining this from prison rises briefly to the surface as Tsalickis tells a story. It is a story about an offer of $1-million a week from a drug dealer, and as he begins to tell it his chestnut eyes flash.

“I’m the kind of guy, I want to listen to all the deals,” he says.

Was the flash from a chink in the armor?

Friends will tell you that the wily side of Tsalickis was always there, in the promoter who staged jaguar scenes for Marlon Perkins, in the knowing host who explains an expression for petty graft, “dancing the tango,” by rubbing his fingers together and smiling.

“Here’s somebody,” says Cooper, trying to sum up his old friend, “who was a self-promoter and an Eagle scout and at the same time he was poaching alligators.”

Bailey says he cannot imagine Tsalickis succumbing simply to the lure of money, or even to a quest for status, in the corrupt town where he was once the biggest fish, but he wonders how Tsalickis would cope with a trafficker who simply kept after him.

There was, for instance, the Czech who showed up in Leticia in the early ’70s with a scheme to sell canned meat from Europe. Tsalickis laughed at the idea, but the Czech kept at him, and, weeks later, they were in business together.

“If someone was persistent enough, I never knew him to say no,” Bailey says. “It would have to be over a period of months. He probably just got sucked in gradually.”

It is while arguing his defense that Tsalickis gingerly mentions his role as an informant for the DEA. He had Jesse Burks carry notes to its Bogota office. More than that, Tsalickis says, he cannot tell, for fear of reprisals on his family.

From Fort Myers, DEA agent Richard Crawford says Tsalickis has nothing to worry about there: He was de-activated as an informant for never giving the agency anything solid.

The fact is, by the mid 1980s Tsalickis could have stood to climb back into the DEA’s good graces. Drugs were so overrunning Colombia that it might have been impossible for the Pope himself to remain above suspicion, never mind a gringo operating an import-export business between coastal Florida and a region of Colombia reporters were now being warned they visited at their peril. It did not help when, one day at the Bogota airport, 10 kilos were found on a plane Tsalickis owned. He spent a night in jail before a mechanic admitted the drugs were his. And later, Tsalickis’ name was found in the address book of the reputed head of the Cali Cartel, Gilberto Rodriguez. Tsalickis replied, with some logic, that given his prominence it would be news only if his name were not in an address book.

Yet when a bomb turned up in Tarpon Springs, he acknowledged it might have been meant for him. And watching television one night in Leticia, Tsalickis saw a report that was both absurd and prophetic: On the evening news, they said he had just been arrested in Brazil.

“I’m in jail in Manaus _ and I’m in Leticia!” he cries.

The Colombian papers carried corrections, but his reputation was headed south.

The nadir may have been The Hotel Colonial, an Italian-made feature film that confounds Tsalickis to this day. When the filmmakers showed up in Leticia, he provided his usual services, rounding up Indians in native face paint and costumes (“Maybe $50 per Indian; I would pay the Indian $1″) and a few monkeys (“I got a rental price and a death price”).

But the fast-moving herpetologist was behind the times. In the finished film Robert Duvall starred as the gringo owner of a Leticia hotel who showed guests a movie of him wrestling an anaconda and exported wild animals on the side. He also smuggled cocaine and, apparently for fun, killed and scalped Indian children.

It became, at least in Italy, the new Legend of Leticia. Once again the Colombian press investigated, this time discounting the hunting allegations as a perverse magnification of the criticism Tsalickis now endured of “exploiting” area Indians by bringing tourists around to see them in the native dress their promoter had laid out.

“I give them a boat, a motor and a net to catch food,” Tsalickis cries, “and I’m bad?”

When Italians actually called to ask him to arrange one of his human game “hunting trips,” Tsalickis produced Ticuna blowguns and darts dipped in poison, to impress upon the Europeans exactly who might hunt whom. The slur was still in his craw at his 1988 trial. He went on about it from the witness stand.

“If he was going to talk about that in front of the jury, I’m not going to stop him,” Furr said. “They probably believe he did that too.”

As 1988 began, the DEA Tampa office met with Pinellas County sheriffs officials and U.S. Customs officers about Mike Tsalickis.

“He’s been doing things under our noses for a long time,” agent Crawford told the locals, “and I think we should do something about it.”

A month later, the DEA office in Bogota received a letter. Though unsigned, the postmark read Cali, home of the Cali Cartel. In considerable detail, the letter laid out a smuggling operation that DEA recognized as a classic Cali operation:

The ship Amazon Sky came into the port of St. Petersburg loaded with cedar boards. In the hold, a customs agent drilled a board he had seen a Colombian studying and came up with cocaine.

For two weeks, the agents and local police watched the shipment from hiding. They saw the boards hauled to a St. Petersburg warehouse. They saw other boards hauled to a warehouse Tsalickis owned on the site of the old Tarpon Zoo, the journey up U.S. 19 punctuated by a confederate running the most obvious countersurveillance one agent had ever seen: stopping in intersections for an entire light cycle to look for tails.

Most damaging of all, they saw Tsalickis directing forklifts to position the lumber. The act was key because, when the officers finally grew tired of watching and served their search warrants, all 701 boards that contained cocaine were in the same place. At trial, Furr put a statistics professor on the stand to testify that you have a better chance of hitting the Lotto jackpot six straight weeks than of the boards ending up that way by chance.

It was that kind of case, Furr says: “The evidence kept coming and coming and coming.”

There was testimony from agents that Tsalickis and his confederates exchanged high fives when the shipment was safely inside the warehouse.

There was testimony from the man employed to run the warehouse that Tsalickis had boasted of helping a drug dealer count stacks of money.

There was the Sears clerk who testified that Tsalickis had been in Sears asking about table saws because he had a lot of lumber.

“He lied!” Tsalickis says.

Furr, prowling his office like he’s giving a summation, waves his hand.

“At trial he must have called 15 people liars. He’s a world class doper. I don’t believe this was the first time he did this by any stretch of the imagination.”

Since the U.S. 11th Circuit denied the appeal, agent Crawford has come around twice to interview the prisoner. The last time, he left red in the face. After indicating otherwise, Crawford says, Tsalickis had nothing to offer after all. Tsalickis explains he has too many relatives in Colombia to say word one, and after what he calls the government’s misbehavior in his case why should he put any faith in its witness protection program?

He shakes his head.

“Whether you know anything or not, it’s best to say nothing.”

 

On Hope Street in Tarpon Springs, an old woman steps out of a small white building and shuffles through the midday glare to the church in her back yard. The Shrine of St. Michael was constructed by the Tsalickis family after Mike’s brother Steve, dying of a brain tumor at age 11, had a vision of the saint and recovered his health. Inside are three rows of pews, the icon from the Greek isle where the old woman spent her youth, and a half dozen pairs of crutches left behind by people who found the kind of miracles that Mrs. Tsalickis, in her five or six trips a day, now asks to deliver her eldest son.

Most of his prison roommates have been Colombians. The latest agreed to turn off the air conditioning, which keeps down the welts that dry air brings out on skin conditioned by 37 years in the jungle. Still extravagantly energetic, Michael Tsalickis spends much of the day at his typewriter, corresponding with dozens of people back in Leticia, filing futile legal motions (one, in the middle district, was a motion to end the drug war), and picking at the loose ends in the government’s case.

Such as: if he was shipping cocaine in wood shipments for the cartel as early as 1983, as DEA files suggest, where is the money?

His only known stateside investment, the Tarpon Financial Center, was in fact heavily mortgaged when the feds seized it. His holdings in Leticia, once valued at $1.5-million, may be next to worthless without Tsalickis to run them.

It’s impossible to say for certain. The town has changed so much. One year 30 people were murdered in the street. The Colombian military swept through the jungles looking for drug labs to wreck and scattering drug lords. One of those who disappeared for a time was Vincente Rivera, the man Tsalickis acknowledges owned the ship he served as agent.

“The guy had money to spend, and Mike thought he could make money in the shipping business,” Burks says, of the figure law enforcement calls “Vincentico.” “I told Mike all along, you’re messing with people who are gonna get you in trouble.”

And Tsalickis, the man who once made a living by word of mouth, who would not declare bankruptcy because it would sully his name, brushed the warning off. His slogan had become “so long as they spell my name right,” a policy the Legend of Leticia had no cause to regret until his press helped to put him in jail.

The pivotal moment came on cross examination, when Furr pulled out a batch of newspaper clippings.

“Most of the dopers we see,” the prosecutor explains today, “. . . they’re invisible people. They want to blend in. They don’t want to be noticed.

“This guy was different.”

The clippings were from South American papers and dated three years before the Bayboro bust. There were accusations from Brazil, which Tsalickis had watched on television that night in Leticia, and there was a batch of corrections from Colombia, whose newspapers he had prevailed upon to record that he was not, at that time, in jail at all.

But three years later, the striking thing remained the substance of the charges themselves. For what the coverage described, in impressive detail, was a smuggling enterprise practically identical to the one that had just been laid in the Tampa courtroom: Leticia, the Amazon Sky, the lumber, the cocaine, Vincente Rivera, Tarpon Springs and, in the middle of it all, Mike Tsalickis.

Operation Eccentric, the Brazilians called it, and when Tsalickis saw the reports on TV that night, he remembers laughing out loud.
How a 1988 cocaine bust in Pinellas County brought down Jungle Mike 04/23/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2013

http://www.tampabay.com/news/courts/criminal/how-a-1988-cocaine-bust-in-pinellas-county-brought-down-jungle-mike/994824

 

Meet The Stony Ridge Tiger Man!

2/1/2015  Kenny Hetrick has had a passion for exotic animals since the age of 10. Kenny’s devotion for exotic animals began in Florida, as an active volunteer at the Tarpon Zoo…

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Posted on Aug 24, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Woody’s Menagerie Exploiting Ligers

Woody’s Menagerie Exploiting Ligers

USDA Sues Gregg Woody

“They acquire a lot of animals from other exhibitors and apparently slaughter some of those animals presumably for the meat trade,” she states. “So there are numerous references within the USDA files of Woody slaughtering bears and African lions.” – See more at: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/2015-08-24/budget-policy-and-priorities/illinois-animal-exhibitor-facing-animal-act-violations/a47829-1

Download USDA vs Woody

 

WOODY’S MENAGERIE BARNYARD RACES

Liger

2012 Aug 18 & 19 Woody’s Menagerie hauls wild animals to the Kenai Peninsula State Fair, held in Ninilchik, Alaska under the name “Lions, Lemurs and Bears, Oh My,” from the Lower 48.

 

2011 July 19 Woody’s Menagerie Animal Show returns this year with something new: a full slate of barnyard races. Watch speedy pigs, goats and sheep as they vie for the title of fastest animal at the fair on Monday through Thursday, July 25-28. Woody’s will also present its newest menagerie addition, a large cat display featuring an adult liger (lion/tiger hybrid), white tiger, golden tiger, adult male lion and baby male lion that people can view and photograph up close.

 

WOODY’S MENAGERIE
PO BOX 68
1909 OLD PARK AVE
Mulberry Grove, IL 62262
ph: 618-406-3342
woodysmenagerie@woodysmenagerie.com

No decent facility breeds ligers or takes big cats out to fairs.

USDA-2010-BearBitKeeper

USDA-2011-Barriers

USDA-2011-CagesTooSmallDelapidated

USDA-2011-LackOfVetCareForBigCats

USDA-2011-NoShelterOrCageForBigCats

USDA-2011-RefusedInspection

USDA-2011-SharpEdgesInCages

USDA-2012-CatsKeptInTravelWagons

USDA-2013-Failure-to-Allow-Inspection

 

 

Woody’s Menagerie Animal Show brings exotic animals to Boone County Fair

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 | 10:55 p.m. CDT; updated 12:01 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tank, one of the show’s two ligers, checks out the crowd during the Woody’s Menagerie Animal Show on Wednesday at the Boone County Fair. Two ligers, a lion, a tiger, a grizzly bear cub and a monkey were among the animals in the show.     Allison Pasek
BY Laura Heck

COLUMBIA – Lions, and tigers, and bears — and ligers.

That’s right. Ligers, a combination of a tiger and a lion, are real animals and were the centerpiece of Woody’s Menagerie Animal Show at the Boone County Fair.

  • PHOTO GALLERY: Wednesday at the Boone County Fair
  • PHOTO GALLERY: Woody’s Menagerie Animal Show features exotic creatures up close

The show has all of the above, plus a macaque monkey, a skunk, an armadillo and more.

Gregg and Karen Woody own and raise exotic and farm animals at their 42-acre home in Mulberry Grove, Ill. The Woodys contract out their personal menagerie as a means to pay for the upkeep of the animals.

“We are a nonprofit but not on purpose,” Gregg Woody joked.

Woody’s Menagerie has traveled to 14 fairs this summer with four more still to go.

Woody’s Menagerie Animal Show

At the Boone County Fair, the exotic animal show, usually led by Gregg, runs through Thursday night. Gregg announces the animals and tells the audience a little about each of them as they are brought out.

Gregg said they rotate the animals based on each animal’s attitude, the heat and Gregg’s mood each show.

Most of the animals wait in cages in an air-conditioned trailer between shows. The big cats are left in wire cages under a tent, with cooling fans pointed in their direction.

For some, the heat might raise concern for the animals, but Karen said she is not worried.

“They’re doing better than the rest of us,” she said. “They’ve got shade, fans and all the water they want to drink.”

On Wednesday night, Karen led the show. Here are some of the animals she featured:

  • Speedy, a three-banded armadillo. Speedy curled into a ball until he was placed on the dusty ground, at which point he took off, almost making it under the fence, and the audience could see how he got his name.
  • Denny, a type of monkey called a Japanese snow macaque. Karen described Denny as “our 2-year-old child for the rest of our lives.” She said that in the wild, Denny would store bananas and other food in his cheeks to chew hours later. She called it “feast or famine.”
  • A skunk named Flower Junior. “They say skunks are the best pets you could ever have,” Karen said. Skunks, she said, are trainable and loveable.
  • Cody the 6-month-old grizzly bear. When Cody was born, he weighed 6 ounces, but now he weighs almost 100 pounds. Each morning, Cody must be walked. Once, a man drove himself into a ditch as he did a double take when he saw a bear on a leash, Karen said.

Then ligers came out to play.

First came Tabitha, who was born in December and is still fed a bottle twice daily.

Tabitha still has all of her distinctive stripes, but as she gets older, most of those will fade. She will eventually grow to be 700 to 800 pounds, Karen said.

Then her 3-year-old big brothers, Tank and Charlie, made their impressive appearance.

Both males are a muted tan color, with faint stripes and spots. They eat about 20 pounds of meat a day.

These animals currently weigh about 750 pounds each and still have two years of growing before they reach full maturity. They could end up weighing around 1,100 pounds.

Tank and Charlie lazed around the enclosure, playing with a ball or licking their paws. On occasion, someone in the crowd would catch their eye, and they would playfully pretend to be stalking prey from behind the fence.

The brothers were also featured at the Boone County Fair in 2009 when they were about 6 months old.

The Woodys also brought along a Tabby Tiger, a lion named Mikey and two 9-week-old lion cubs.

Colin Lea, 4, watched the show with his parents and younger brother, Quentin. He said the ligers were the best part and thought they were really big.

“Would they bite if we touch them?” he asked his mother, Liz.

Raising ligers

Ligers are undoubtedly rare creatures.

“We have a very unique show,” Gregg said. “Nobody else has ligers like these.”

Tank, Charlie and Tabitha were bred in the menagerie from a tigress and male lion that were in the show 12 years ago, Gregg said.

“We put them together and thought, if it happens it happens,” he said. The pair was together for eight years before they produced their first litter.

Tank and Charlie are the first males born to the pair.

Gregg said that to his knowledge, all ligers in the United States under 8 years of age came from his cats.

The business of a menagerie

“In this business, if you screw up and you’re lucky, you get to do it again,” Gregg said.

Gregg started out with wildlife about 30 years ago and got his first big cat more than 20 years ago.

The Woodys also offer an extensive petting zoo, barnyard racing, a reptile exhibit and camel rides.

Gregg described the various workers at each show as “friends, families and a few volunteers.” Some volunteers travel with the show; others are picked up at each location.

The cages, especially with the big cats, are guarded 24 hours a day.

Gregg said in the 20-something years he has exhibited big cats, he has never had an accident involving the public. At each location, Gregg estimates that hundreds of people ask to get closer to the animals, but contact is not allowed.

He said the animals are not necessarily trained, but they are raised from birth to participate in the shows.

“You teach them right from wrong when they are younger,” he said.

A traveling menagerie is time-consuming and expensive. Karen and Gregg have been married for 20 years and have had one four-day vacation in that time.

“You don’t get into this for the money,” Gregg said. “We enjoy working with these animals — we enjoy what we do.”

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Posted on Aug 20, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

Robert Mullen One World

Robert Mullen One World

All you need to know about this previous circus carnie, named Robert Mullen of PM Productions and One World can be found here:

https://www.thedodo.com/missouri-tigers-starved-cat-1306274983.html

and here:

https://www.thedodo.com/emaciated-tigers-missouri-state-fair-1304464785.html?xrs=RebelMouse_fb#

and here:

https://remindyourmind.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/the-worst-summer-jobs-i-ever-had-part-iii/

and here:

https://remindyourmind.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-worst-summer-jobs-i-ever-had-part-ii/

ROBERT MULLEN (P M PRODUCTIONS)
Customer No: 2500
Certificate No: 58-C-0771
Certificate Status: ACTIVE
Status Date: Sep 24, 2003

2219 SW 45TH AVE

BELL ,FL 32619
COUNTY: GILCHRIST

Animal Inventory for Inspection Date: Jan 21, 2015
Inspection Animal Count Animal Common Name Animal Group Name
1 COATI MUNDI ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
1 FISHING CAT ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
1 KINKAJOU ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
1 SERVAL ALL OTHER COVERED SPECIE
7 CAT ADULT CATS
10 DOG ADULT DOGS
1 BROWN CAPUCHIN NONHUMAN PRIMATES
2 RING-TAILED LEMUR NONHUMAN PRIMATES
2 GOAT OTHER FARM ANIMALS
1 LLAMA OTHER FARM ANIMALS
1 PUMA WILD/EXOTIC FELINES
3 TIGER WILD/EXOTIC FELINES

2015 USDA Violations by Robert Mullen

2012 USDA Violations by Robert Mullen

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Posted on Aug 19, 2015 in Abuse, Browse by Name | 0 comments

White Tiger Discovery All Things Wild Owned by Michael Todd

White Tiger Discovery All Things Wild Owned by Michael Todd

 

The bad guys just keep changing names.

 

Who really believes that Marcus Cook is not still involved?

 

At a Texas legislative meeting in April 2015 Marcus Cook showed up and claimed to be working for this outfit.

 

From what we can tell, White Tiger Discovery is in a legal “grey area”. While it is technically licensed, it’s being run in a way that it completely against federal regulations, and likely wouldn’t be allowed to operate if the USDA actually enforced their laws.

 

The exhibit is still officially owned and operated by Michael Todd of All Things Wild, who does hold a valid USDA permit for it (the permit # is 33-C-0388, should you want to look it up on the USDA database). However, Marcus Cook, who had his license permanently revoked in 2012, continues to operate the tiger exhibit out of his Kaufman, Texas, facility, even though Todd, the exhibit’s legal owner, is based in Illinois.

 

The USDA is well-aware that Cook is merely using Todd as a front, and is not at all happy with this arrangement. All Things Wild’s latest USDA inspection report, filed in late May, notes that Cook’s Texas facility where the tigers are kept is “not in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act”, and has not been since 2012. It also scolds them for failing to submit traveling itineraries, which has been a repeat problem for years.  2008 USDA Complaint and License Revocation

 

After reading the documents linked on this page, a fair would have to be insane to host White Tiger Discovery. Here’s just a few reasons why:

 

– White Tiger Discovery has no insurance.  In fact, All Things Wild is currently under criminal investigation by the New York State Department of Financial Services after it was revealed that “The Seacoast Agency”, a group which the exhibit claims to be insured by, doesn’t exist at all.  And if you’re hosting Marcus Cook, you’ll need it, because…

 

– In 2014, the exhibit was cited by federal inspectors because none of the exhibit’s animal handlers had knowledge, experience, or training handling large felids. That’s an accident waiting to happen.

 

– In 2012 and 2014, the exhibit was cited multiple times for allowing paying fairgoers (including children) to feed meat to adult tigers with salad tongs. It’s a miracle nobody’s been bitten yet.

 

– And from 2000 to 2002 — just a two-year time span — Cook’s tiger exhibit was cited by the USDA a whopping 29 times for severe deficiencies in animal welfare and public safety. These violations included failure to keep tigers, including an adult, under the direct control of an experienced and knowledgeable animal handler, failure to maintain structurally sound facilities with a perimeter fence that has a secure latching and locking system, and failure to provide a facility constructed of such material appropriate for the animals involved.

 

But not only is the exhibit itself incredibly dangerous, it’s also run by a person we believe to be an incredibly dishonest and deceptive man. History has shown a pattern of scamming, cheating, and lying.

 

– While Marcus Cook claims to have a zoology degree, it is from the “University of Wexford” a diploma mill in Switzerland which fabricates degrees for a fee.

 

– In 2003, he was arraigned for stealing donations meant to go to tiger conservation. Cook displayed the logo of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundations’ “Save The Tiger Fund” on posters and promotional materials for his tiger exhibit, and claimed that the $10 “donations” people paid to take photos with his tiger cubs would be donated to this Fund. Cook and his affiliates then kept all the donations — totaling over $12,000 — for themselves. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot charged Cook with 28 violations of the Texas Deceptive Business Practices Act, with fraud, and with violating the Non-Profit Corporations Act.

 

He fined Cook and issued a formal judgment that banned him from ever again establishing a nonprofit in the state of Texas, from claiming any affiliation with Save the Tiger Fund, and from “misrepresenting or causing confusion … as to Defendants’ safety record .”

 

Fearing for the public’s safety, the Attorney General then obtained an emergency court order which froze all of Cook’s assets and stopped the tiger exhibit (at least temporarily).  In a statement, Abbot said:

 

“This operator deliberately downplayed the potential danger of these animals, as well as the group’s safety record and trainer qualifications, letting children and adults touch and hold them without regard for disease or possible physical harm. This dangerous deception against the public, and the organization’s false assertions about its charitable intentions, led our legal experts to conclude that we needed to act quickly.”

 

Abbot’s response is very commendable – if only all lawmakers treated cub-petting exhibits like this.

 

–  Cook lost his job as a police officer in 1998 after an investigation by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Education revealed that he falsified his educational records. He submitted a fake diploma and transcript while applying for his police officer job, while in reality, he had never finished high school. Commission executive director Jim Dozier stated, “This is a person who committed a crime of moral turpitude, and he is not someone we want in law enforcement.”  According to this article, while he was a police officer, prosecutors even chose to dismiss several cases in which Cook was the only state witness because of “concerns about his credibility.”

 

Victor Palmer, the Administrative Law Judge who revoked Cook’s license, summed it up best:

 

“Marcus Cook has a history of deceiving the public, APHIS, and other law enforcement agencies. He has represented himself to have expertise and credentials that he does not possess to mislead government authorities. To allow Marcus Cook to have an exhibitor’s license in [his] name, or through a corporation or other entity that [he] controls, would subject both the public and the animals [he] would exhibit, to an unacceptable level of risk of harm.”

 

Bottom line: If this exhibit is legal (which is very questionable, given the ongoing insurance fraud investigation and USDA citations), it shouldn’t be. It’s run by someone we believe to be a very dangerous and deceptive charlatan who clearly cares more about profits than the safety of his animals or the public. No responsible event should ever host White Tiger Discovery.

 

Big cat exhibitor referred for federal fraud investigation

Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015 9:00 am

A criminal investigation into a Kaufman man’s business could soon be underway after claims of fraud.

Michael Todd—the operator of a traveling animal exhibit called All Things Wild, whose big-cat act has been headquartered in Kaufman — has claimed to be insured by “The Seacoast Agency,” according to a release from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

 

The White Tiger Discovery

May 30, 2012

The White Tiger Discovery exhibit that will be on display at the Wichita River Festival starting Friday is under new ownership since it was shut down in Chicago in January when its previous owner was found to have violated federal animal welfare laws.

White Tiger Discovery was purchased from Texas-based ZooCats Inc. and its owner Marcus Cook about a year ago by Michael Todd, owner of All Things Wild, a zoological service provider in Illinois, and Todd’s Pony & Hay Rides in Garden Prairie, Ill., according to a supervisor with All Things Wild. The sale wasn’t final until February.

In January, the exhibit was closed down while on display at Navy Pier in Chicago when organizers learned that ZooCats was having its license revoked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for health and safety violations, including endangering children.

According to All Things Wild, ZooCats Inc. and Cook no longer are affiliated with White Tiger Discovery, which will exhibit four white tigers during the nine-day river festival.

 

However, in April the new owners also were cited by the USDA.

 

Inspectors’ reports show that Todd’s Pony & Hay Rides was accused of failing to disclose the purchase of the tigers and two cougars within 10 days of the transaction, and of allowing the public, during an exhibition, to feed two of the tigers through a barricade that had bars spaced so that children and adults were able to touch the tigers’ enclosure with tongs containing red meat.

The feeding issue was corrected at the time of the inspection, said Aaron Myers, supervisor of the Animal Care Facility at All Things Wild. Failing to report the sale was “probably an oversight”, he said.

USDA records show that the previous owner, Cook’s ZooCats Inc., which also did business as Zoo Dynamics, had a long history of infractions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including failing to provide a proper diet, lack of veterinary care, poorly maintained facilities and physical abuse of the animals.

Myers said the White Tiger Discovery exhibit is “totally different” under its new ownership. The tigers that will be in Wichita were returned to Texas after leaving Illinois, but have been well taken care of and are “extremely healthy,” he said.

“On a scale of one to 10, I’d give them an 11,” said Myers, who last saw them in March.

Janet Wright, president and CEO of Wichita Festivals, said “nothing has come to light” suggesting to River Festival organizers that there are any issues regarding the exhibit that will be in Wichita.. The tigers have passed a veterinarian’s inspection in Texas and have been licensed by the city to be exhibited, she said. A local veterinarian will be available throughout the festival to make sure they’re taken care of, she said.

“We’ve tried to do as much due diligence as appropriate,” Wright said. “If anything comes about that’s not what we expected, it’s our call to ask them to leave. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Myers said there won’t be any public feedings in Wichita. White Tiger Discovery has been changed into more static exhibit, he said, with public talks and feeding demonstrations rather than public interaction.

River festival goers must pay an extra $3 on top of the cost of the festival button to see the tigers. Navy Pier paid $27,000 for the exhibit, but the river festival paid nothing for it, Wright said. White Tiger Discovery will keep the $3 cost from each visitor, she said.

Myers said Todd purchased the animals, equipment, marketing data base and the name “White Tiger Discovery” from ZooCats.

“We knew we were going to see some negative publicity with the old affiliation,” he said.

 

Todd did not respond to a request for an interview.

 

The USDA issued All Things Wild a stipulation — a monetary penalty — in 1999 for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including exhibiting animals for compensation without a license.

The USDA also issued Todd’s Pony & Hay Rides a warning letter in 2010 for two alleged violations of the act. One was a failure to establish and maintain adequate veterinary care programs after a male goat was found with extremely long hooves that folded beneath its feet, and which were beginning to crack.

The other was a failure to make potable water accessible to animals at all times after its water receptacles were found to have excessive amounts of algae. The license for All Things Wild has been active since June 2009 and the USDA is not investigating All Things Wild, according to a USDA spokesman.

 

Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2012/05/30/2354012/riverfests-traveling-white-tiger.html#storylink=cpy

 

So here are the questions reporters should be asking:

 

When the tigers aren’t on the road where are they kept?  Are they still kept at Marcus Cook’s home in Kauffman, TX?

If so, isn’t that pretty obvious that Marcus Cook is still exhibiting even after having his license revoked permanently?

If so, why can’t USDA figure that out?

If Michael Todd lives in IL and the tigers were in TX, then how did he buy and endangered species across state lines without being under investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service?

August 20, 2014 August 23, 2013 August 31 2013 ( As Zoo Dynamics) June 8, 2012 June 13, 2014 May 3, 2012 May 16, 2015 November 4, 2014 November 27, 2012

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