Press Release

Animal Legal Defense Fund Urges USDA to Revoke AWA License from Convicted Wildlife Trafficker

Jason Clay has a long history of violations and recently pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act

Contact: media@aldf.org, 707-364-8387

WASHINGTON — Today, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a complaint urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to investigate and revoke, or refuse to renew, the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) exhibitor license for Jason Clay, who is doing business in Texas as two entities, Franklin Drive Thru Safari and East Texas Zoo & Gator Park.

In December 2023, Clay pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act for illegally transporting an endangered juvenile chimpanzee across state lines.

In the past two years, Clay has had AWA violations on four separate inspections of his facilities.

  • Inability to ensure that his facilities provide adequate potable water, including in an enclosure containing 23 animals.
  • Neglecting to prevent injuries, such as a pig with long hooves curling upward on their hind feet, which “can lead to discomfort, pain and crippling in animals.”
  • Inadequate veterinary care resulting in deaths to at least a pygmy hippo and a giraffe, as well as servals with hair loss and an aardvark who was missing the tip of their tail.
  • Failure to maintain structural integrity of enclosures, such as nail heads and screws protruding from wooden surfaces inside the capybara and bird enclosures.
  • Failure to maintain a safe and effective pest control program, resulting in a large amount of flies on and around the feed trough in a petting zoo area containing goats and zebu.

“Jason Clay has made it clear he is incapable of providing animals the bare minimum of care required by the law — and we urge the USDA to revoke his license immediately,” says Animal Legal Defense Fund Litigation Fellow Michael Swistara. “It is unconscionable for a convicted wildlife trafficker to be able to maintain an exhibitor license and continue to operate.”

This is the second complaint filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund with the USDA demanding Clay’s license be revoked or not renewed. The first was filed in January 2022. In April 2022, the Animal Legal Defense Fund also filed a complaint to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), urging the agency to inspect and appropriately enforce workplace safety laws with regard to Clay in response to ongoing OSHA violations and a resulting animal attack causing substantial injuries to an employee at his East Texas Zoo and Gator Park facility.