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Press Release

Michigan Animal Dealer Surrenders Exotic Animals Following Alleged Violations of Animal Welfare Act and Endangered Species Act

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

The Justice Department entered a consent decree in federal court with Zachery Keeler, dba Even Keel Exotics LLC, to resolve allegations in a complaint that Keeler violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and Animal Welfare Act (AWA). As part of the agreement, Keeler will surrender close to 150 animals including ring-tailed lemurs, kinkajous, wallabies, porcupines, foxes, prairie dogs and ground squirrels. He has also agreed to never buy, sell or otherwise engage in commerce related to animals regulated under AWA, and to not apply for AWA licensing or registration.

The complaint alleges that Keeler violated the ESA by unlawfully and prematurely separating a baby ring-tailed lemur, an endangered species, from its mother to interact with the public, then tried to sell the baby lemur for $3500. Keeler also allegedly violated the AWA by not providing potable water as needed, safe and sanitary conditions and facilities for his animals, or access to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) inspectors so that they could ensure the health and wellbeing of his animals.

A baby ring-tailed lemur sits in the folds of a blanket.
Photo of a baby ring-tailed lemur used to promote Even Keel Exotics. Image is from the complaint in United States v. Keeler, no. 2:23-cv-11748.

“The Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act are important tools in protecting our most vulnerable species,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Even Keel Exotics violated requirements for minimum care of the animals in its possession, failed to provide required access to inspectors and illegally harmed a baby lemur, a protected endangered species.”

“APHIS is committed to achieving the best possible outcomes for animals protected under the Animal Welfare Act,” said Deputy Administrator Dr. Roxanne Mullaney for APHIS’ Animal Care Program. “This includes undertaking aggressive enforcement action against repeat, egregious violators of the law and working closely with APHIS partners to ensure AWA compliance.”

USDA-APHIS investigated the case as well as inspected and removed animals from the Even Keel Exotics facility. The Environment and Natural Resources Division’s Wildlife & Marine Resources Section filed the complaint and lodged the consent decree in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case is United States v. Keeler, no. 2:23-cv-11748.

A baby ring-tailed lemur clings to its mother.
Photo of a baby ring-tailed lemur and its mother used to promote the sale of the baby lemur. Image is from the complaint in United States v. Keeler, no. 2:23-cv-11748.
Updated August 28, 2023

Press Release Number: 23-922