The Justice Department has entered into a consent decree with Zachery Keeler, doing business as Even Keel Exotics LLC, in federal court to resolve allegations outlined in a complaint. The complaint alleges that Keeler violated both the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). To settle the matter, Keeler has agreed to relinquish nearly 150 animals, including ring-tailed lemurs, kinkajous, wallabies, porcupines, foxes, prairie dogs, and ground squirrels. Additionally, he has committed to refraining from engaging in any animal-related commerce regulated under the AWA, and he will not seek AWA licensing or registration.
According to the complaint, Keeler is accused of breaching the ESA by prematurely separating a baby ring-tailed lemur, which is an endangered species, from its mother for public interaction. Allegedly, he attempted to sell the baby lemur for $3500. Furthermore, the complaint asserts that Keeler violated the AWA by failing to provide suitable conditions for his animals, including access to clean water and sanitary facilities. He is also accused of denying access to inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), which is responsible for ensuring the welfare of animals.
Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division emphasized the significance of the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act in safeguarding vulnerable species. He highlighted that Even Keel Exotics violated animal care requirements and harmed a protected endangered species, the baby lemur.
Dr. Roxanne Mullaney, Deputy Administrator of APHIS’ Animal Care Program, stated that APHIS is dedicated to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act and working with partners to ensure compliance. The case was investigated by USDA-APHIS, which also conducted inspections and removals of animals from Even Keel Exotics’ facility. The complaint was filed by the Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Wildlife & Marine Resources Section and the consent decree was lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan under the case name United States v. Keeler, no. 2:23-cv-11748.