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?