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Jason Clay, the owner of Franklin Drive Thru Safari and East Texas Zoo & Gator Park, has a long history of alleged animal welfare transgressions. In 2021 alone, there were 24 Animal Welfare Act violations on his properties, including not providing proper veterinary care to a giraffe and a hippo, which ultimately led to their deaths. 

On Tuesday, the Animal Legal Defense Fund released a statement regarding the complaint they filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture against Clay. In the complaint, they urge the department “to investigate and enforce the Animal Welfare Act” and have Clay’s license revoked. 

Recently, an amendment was made to the USDA licensing process, that may help “promote compliance” with the AWA and “strengthen safeguards that prevent individuals and businesses with a history of noncompliance from obtaining a license or working with regulated animals.” 

Of course, this may just be another performative measure, but there is also more promising legislation on the horizon. Among other things, this new bill would allow citizens to enforce the AWA, and mandate the disclosure of inspections and enforcement.

Before taking over as owner of the East Texas Zoo & Gator Park, Clay allegedly trafficked wildlife for them. Recent videos on his Facebook page, which have since been removed, showed “lemurs in tiny, stacked cat carriers presumably prepared for transport and sale.”

According to ALDF, the “drastic fluctuations in the number and type of animals at his facilities” paints an even more suspicious picture.

Another incident the ALDF is asking for further investigation on is from a video posted on social media by an employee of Clay’s, who showed her injuries from an animal attack. According to ALDF, this may have been caused by improper training and management, both of which violate the AWA.

In addition to this alleged unethical treatment of animals and, possibly employees, Clay was also indicted four years ago for assault and was “accused of repeatedly hitting the victim in the face with his fists and kicking him.”

At this point, it’s not exactly surprising.

On May 4 of this year, Clay’s license is set to expire. Let’s see if the new changes in the licensing process can make it so it stays that way.

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