Even Keel Exotics in Temperance, Michigan, has been cited with six more Animal Welfare Act violations after an inspector with the U.S. Department of Agriculture found several animals without water, living in filthy enclosures, without adequate protection from the elements.
Even Keel Exotics is owned by Zachary Keeler who buys, sells and trades animals. The facility also offers paid animal encounters and “baby animal days” where the public can interact with infant animals that have been taken from their mothers to be imprinted on by humans.
The USDA inspected Even Keel Exotics on January 11, 2022, and found that a rabbit, a capybara and a hog had no water to drink. When provided with water, each of the affected animals immediately began drinking and continued drinking for up to a minute, according to the USDA inspection report.
“The lack of water can cause dehydration, distress and even death,” the inspector noted in her report. “The licensee must ensure that potable water is provided as often as necessary for the health and comfort of the animals.”
The inspector found three African crested porcupines that Keeler was housing outside without an accessible shelter. The porcupine’s shelter was located on a ledge and the inspection report notes that there was no way for the animals to access the ledge. The temperature at the time of the inspection was 19 degrees and the inspector noted that the porcupines' enclosure floor was made of cement with only a thin layer of shavings and straw.
“This enclosure and lack of shelter is inadequate to allow these porcupines protection from the cold temperatures and wind,” according to the inspection report.
The inspector also found repeated sanitation issues. One enclosure housing a kinkajou, one enclosure housing 18 sugar gliders, and two enclosures housing three fishing cats, contained an excess build-up of feces, the inspector noted. One sugar glider enclosure contained a six inch PVC pipe and a 24 inch rod “that were excessively covered in fecal material.”
The inspector found that Even Keel exotics was keeping a rabbit in the same enclosure as two capybaras and a tortoise.
“Rabbits shall not be housed in the same primary enclosure as other species of animals unless for scientific reasons,” the USDA inspector noted.
The inspector also found a hedgehog enclosure that contained an index card that said “unknown (found on floor).” After speaking with an Even Keel Exotics employee, the inspector learned that in December 2021 the hedgehog had escaped from its primary enclosure and was found running loose in the building.
Even Keel Exotics was cited with three direct violations, two non-critical violations and one critical violation at the January 2022 inspection.
Other violations in 2021 included a direct violation for two Arctic foxes that had no water to drink. Three red foxes were found covered in crusty scabs and patches of hair loss, and flies were chewing on the ear of a cavy which had caused thickened skin and a split open wound.
A hedgehog house and the front room of the barn had a strong ammonia odor that could cause eye and respiratory irritation, according to an August 2021 USDA inspection report.
Even Keel Exotics also lacked a perimeter fence to act as a secondary containment for the animals and the inspector noted that in May 2021 a wallaby escaped from the facility and was loose for 48 hours before being recaptured.
In August 2021, Even Keel Exotics was cited for a 10-week-old red fox that bit a child during exhibition.
The January violations bring Even Keel Exotics total to 18 violations in the past year.
January 2022 USDA Inspection Report: