For Immediate Release:
April 5, 2023
David Perle 202-483-7382
West Union, Ill. – This morning, PETA sent a letter to Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Sgt. Dan Greuel and Conservation Police Officer Eric Mieure, calling on them to step in and confiscate big cats and primates from one of PETA’s “most wanted animal abusers,” former Walnut Prairie Wildside operator Thomas Edmonds.
PETA notes that Edmonds’ federal license to exhibit animals was canceled in 2021, shortly after he racked up more than 65 citations for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including for repeatedly denying animals adequate veterinary care—so it’s against state law for him to possess tigers, mountain lions, lynx, and primates. In an apparent attempt to skirt the law, he has claimed to have transferred “legal ownership” of these animals to Andy Watkins in Indiana, who has an active AWA license—but, as PETA has learned, the animals are still in Edmonds’ possession, he continues to refer to them as “his,” and, most obviously, Watkins’ AWA license doesn’t cover Edmonds’ property. There were no animals listed in the most recent inventory on Watkins’ license.
“Not only does Edmonds still have big cats and primates, he also seems to be putting up a smokescreen to try to dupe wildlife officials,” says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Michelle Sinnott. “Edmonds lost his federal exhibitor’s license after failing animals time and again, and PETA is urging state officials to move posthaste to confiscate these animals, who are likely suffering.”
Among Edmonds’ many alleged AWA violations is his repeated failure to provide animals with adequate veterinary care, including two vervet monkeys and a ring-tailed lemur, who all died, and a young cougar who was extremely thin, exhibiting signs of dehydration, and suffering from diarrhea. Edmonds’ extensive violations prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to file a formal complaint—which the agency reserves for the most egregious cases—against him.
PETA also sent a letter this morning to USDA Animal Welfare Operations Director Robert M. Gibbens urging him to investigate Watkins for either operating a second unapproved site at Edmonds’ facility or helping to create false records in an apparent attempt to assist Edmonds’ circumvention of state law.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.