This breeder and seller of exotic cats and many other animals came onto our radar in June 2019 when we were alerted that the Fraziers were hosting an exotic pet expo in Dandridge, Tennessee. Here are more than 90 photos from this expo can be found here. Disturbingly, one vendor was selling a taxidermied bobcat as one of the “products” on offer:
Frazier Farms Exotics is a major national breeder/broker of exotic animals based in Bybee, TN. They have over 100,000 Facebook followers and appear to be among the kingpins of the US exotic animal trade, but little is known about them and they seem to have somehow escaped the notice of animal welfare watchdogs so far.
Frazier Farms is owned and operated by Michael, Crystal, and Darrell W. Frazier, who clearly view animals as nothing more than commodities to be bought and sold for profit (they often refer to them online as “product”). The Fraziers believe that it should be a “right” for anyone to own any animal they want, and according to their listing on an exotic animal breeder directory, their “farm” churns out “Bobcat, Lynx, Raccoon, Red Fox, Gray Fox, Arctic Fox, Groundhog, Gray Squirrel, Black Squirrel, Lemurs, High Content Wolfdogs, Coyote, and many more species” which are sold as “pets” at expos like this one or auctioned off to the highest bidder at their new bi-annual Smoky Mountain Alternative Livestock Auction, which allows unlicensed breeders and brokers from all over the country to consign baby wild cats, newborn primates, and even federally endangered species for auction (more on that later). Currently, Tennessee state law allows both bobcats and lynx to be legally kept as “pets,” with bobcat owners needing a class 2 permit and lynx requiring no permit at all.
The following photos were recently posted by Frazier Farms on Facebook (they let their kids help raise the animals). It seems that they’ve recently started breeding Sand Cats to sell as “pets,” even though they’re a desert species so sensitive to humidity that even most zoos have a hard time keeping them. I can’t help but wonder where their breeding stock came from, since there are virtually no private breeders of Sand Cats and they are heavily poached from the wild for the pet trade. Sadly, the naive public is already clamoring to buy the cats because they’re so “cute.” In the background of the third picture, notice the rows of kennel cages with taxidermied animal pelts on top.
Crystal Frazier recently posted this photo. Apparently, “responsible pet ownership” entails using a baby bobcat as a selfie prop and then immediately offering to sell it to a random person on Facebook:
This is a photo of Michael Frazier’s fireplace decorated with the carcasses of animals he bred, along with his rude taunting of the “ignorant idiots” who think it’s creepy or digusting. He claims that the animals all died of “natural causes” and that he just had them stuffed to “enjoy them.”
Frazier Farms is USDA licensed as a dealer and breeder with license #63-B-0189. According to this log of FOIA requests,Michael Frazier himself recently requested “copies of the complaints lodged against Frazier Farms Exotics usda number 63-B-0189 From the period February 1, 2018 to present.” Earlier, in July of 2018, a redacted requester — who is almost certainly Frazier — had asked for “Animal Care complaint that was lodge against Frazier Farms Exotics USDA No. 63-B-0189 from the period of February 1, 2018 to present.” What is he trying to hide?
The Frazier family operates multiple animal-related business ventures — if there’s a way to make money off of the sale and transport of animals, the Fraziers are probably doing it. Besides their main business of breeding and selling exotic “pets” to naive owners, the family also operates the following businesses:
- The breeding, training, and boarding of Tennessee Walking Horses. In 2012 Frazier Farms owner Darrell W. Frazier was named in a federal Horse Protection Act enforcement action for allowing a horse named ‘Bat Her Up’ to enter the 72nd Annual Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration while sored. Horse “soring” is a horrific and illegal practice which “involves putting caustic chemicals on the horse’s front legs, wrapping the legs in plastic wrap and bandages, and letting the chemicals “cook” into the flesh. After several days, the bandages are removed and chains are fastened around the ankles of the horse, biting into the injured flesh. Extremely heavy, tall shoes (“stacks”) are then attached to the front hooves with metal straps. The effect of this painful process is that the horse tries to remove all weight from his front legs, adopting an exaggerated sitting position when moving and flinging out the front legs in a movement that is referred to as the “Big Lick.”
In 2014, a federal court order was issued against Justin Jenne, DBA Frazier Farms, for soring a horse. Jenne told the court that the horse was “trained” by wearing aluminum rollers and chains on its feet for at least 5 days per week. APHIS has since banned most of these “action devices”because they’re often used in conjunction with caustic chemicals to cause greater pain to the horse. Jenne was ordered to pay a $2200 fine and was banned from showing horses for one year.
- Frazier Farms Investments and Transportation LLC, a service for the interstate transport of exotic animals. The Fraziers travel around the East Coast transferring animals from breeders to buyers (their Facebook page mentions picking up animals in Chicago and Ohio) and rent out space in their cargo trailer for everything from bison to bobcats. Whether this interstate transport is done legally is anyone’s guess, but the business is currentlyregistered with the USDA as a “carrier.”
- Frazier Farms Shar-Pei, a puppy breeding business. Nothing is known about the conditions these puppies are bred in, but there have been complaints about the Fraziers scamming people and of poor-quality dogs coming out of their farm, with one reviewer claiming that:FRAZIER FARMS, MIKE & CRYSTAL FRAZIER, OF BYBEE, TN ARE KNOWN RIPOFF ARTISTS. THEY HAVE RIPPED OFF SEVERAL PEOPLE WITH THEIR SHAR-PEI PUPPIES.DOGS ARE SOLD FOR THE WRONG COLOR & THEY ACCEPT DEPOSITS THEN DO NOT SEND YOU THE DOG. YOU ARE PROBABLY BETTER OFF NOT GETTING THE DOG ACTUALLY. A FRIEND OF MINE BOUGHT SEVERAL CHINESE SHAR-PEI PUPPIES FROM THEM & THE DOGS LOOK AWFUL, HAVE SKIN ISSUES, & MOST ARE AGGRESSIVE. ONE FRAZIER SHAR-PEI ATTACKED ANOTHER OF MY FRIEND’S SHAR-PEI & KILLED IT.THEY BREED REJECTS. I DID NOT KNOW THAT THEY BRED CHICKENS, BUT I GUESS THEY SCAM PEOPLE IN THAT ALSO. TRY TALKING WITH THEM AFTER YOU HAVE AN ISSUE, CRYSTAL GIVES EXCUSES & MIKE SHOWS YOU HOW HE CAN CUSS. THE TYPICAL REDNECK MENTALITY.SORRY ABOUT THE SCAM ON THE CHICKENS. IF ANYONE IS THINKING ABOUT BUYING A SHAR-PEI FROM THEM. PLEASE THINK AGAIN.YOU WILL REGRET IT. I PROMISE.
Since the Fraziers are so involved in the exotic animal network, they’ve posted plenty of photos showing the family raising or handling big cat cubs from other breeders. This sickly-looking lion cub is being handled roughly by one of the Frazier children, and there are also a few photos of the Fraziers bottlefeeding cougar cubs, which they don’t breed at their farm. The last photo of the lynx was bred by the Fraziers.
In our opinion, it seems from looking at the Frazier’s Facebook posts that as long as they get paid, they couldn’t care less about who’s buying the animals, why they’re buying them, who’s doing business at their events, or if those businesses are legal or ethical. They appear to view exotic animals as nothing more than “livestock” or “products” to sell and don’t think it should be anyone else’s business what they do with them.
Last summer, Frazier Farms posted a bizarre Facebook rant about being inspected by the USDA, calling it a “waste of taxpayer dollars” and threatening legal action against those who reported them to the USDA. One commenter rightly points out that this isn’t what someone who truly cares about animals would complain about:
The Fraziers rarely try to dissuade impulse buyers who demonstrate very little knowledge about the wild “pets” they’re interested in, nor have they discouraged potentially illegal interstate sales, simply telling buyers to “check their local laws” and acting as if it’s solely the buyer’s responsibility to make sure that a purchase is legal. They don’t seem to care about unethical breeders who set up shop at their expos and auctions because they don’t feel that it’s their responsibility to police them, and are extremely hostile towards anyone who dares question the legitimacy of their vendors. Frazier Farms posted a rude, rambling Facebook comment earlier this week in response to someone who was concerned about a vendor at their expo misleading the public into buying “miniature” pigs (which don’t really exist). They wrote, in part:
“We are obviously NOT the seller and I sure can’t tell you the age by a picture on a pig? We are a show where vendors rent a booth to sell THEIR product and give people like you an opportunity to ASSUME you know everything about their product based on a photo and then you put words to it that was NEVER said or insinuated in the post at all. But we are however glad you stopped by to show exactly the type people animal owners and breeders encounter on a regular basis while simply trying to conduct their business.”
About the “Smokey Mountain Alternative Livestock Auction” and how the Fraziers are knowingly breaking federal law:
Frazier’s Farms’ first “Smokey Mountain Alternative Livestock Auction,” was held in August 2018. It was a major, 2-day event (over 60,000 Facebook views on the event per week) which was held at the Walters State Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center and supposedly licensed by the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture. Baby bobcats, servals, infant primates, and federally-endangered Scimitar-horned Oryx were openly advertised on the event’s public Facebook page, and who knows what else was sold “under the table.” Some of the animals at the auction were known to have been bred by Frazier Farms, but most come from completely unknown sources who may not have been USDA licensed. The flyer for the auction (attached) falsely claimed that “all animals are sold for food & fiber,” a clause likely put in so that consignees didn’t need to be licensed by the USDA, since under the Animal Welfare Act, “purchases and sales of animals used only for the purposes of food or fiber” are exempt from licensing requirements.
This claim is obviously a blatant lie, since Frazier Farms themselves admitted in a Facebook post that the animals they breed and sell are meant to be “pets,” the flyer says the event is “for exotics enthusiasts,” and the Facebook page for the auction is filled with out-of-state buyers clearly eager to purchase the animals as pets. And last I checked, primates and wildlife aren’t being bred for their wool. :)
Although the auction flyer listed several “requirements” for licensing and humane treatment that animal sellers were to follow, there is little reason to believe that these rules were actually enforced. Several consignment photos from the auction showed birds, lemurs, and infant primates in barren wire cages. Disturbingly, taxidermied wildlife was also available for sale. The following photos were posted on the auction’s Facebook page last year:
Although the auction claimed to be licensed by the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture, I’m pretty sure that Frazier Farms is breaking federal law by allowing the public to pet and hold their animals despite the fact that they don’t have an exhibitor’s license. Frazier Farms is licensed as a breeder/dealer only and does not hold an exhibitors license. As such, they are not legally permitted to allow public contact with their animals, and the Fraziers are well aware of this law, as evidenced by these Facebook posts:
However, just before they posted this, there were multiple posts on their Facebook page showing Frazier Farms bringing baby exotics to local events and letting children touch and hold them for “educational purposes”. And their expos and auctions are promoted to the public as a type of “zoo” event where the public is encouraged to come and view the animals at the expo center.If they’re not licensed as an exhibitor, this is a clear, willful violation of the AWA.