Two dozen animals had no water to drink at East Texas Zoo and Gator Park, federal officials wrote in a newly released U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report, which could cause serious health issues.
East Texas Zoo and Gator Park in Grand Saline, Texas, and Franklin Drive Thru Safari in Franklin, Texas, are both owned by Jason Clay.
In the past year the two roadside zoos have been cited with a combined total of 30 violations of the Animal Welfare Act and an Official Warning. Read more about past violations here:
On March 24, 2022, the USDA inspected East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and found that a petting zoo area that contained 20 goats, two pigs and two zebus had a water trough that was empty. An East Texas Zoo representative told officials that an employee was instructed to fill the trough the previous evening prior to closing. When provided with water a zebu drank for one minute and a goat drank for one minute and 22 seconds, the inspector noted in her report. As the inspectors left the enclosure several more goats proceeded to the trough to drink.
“Lack of water increases the risk of serious health issues for animals,” the inspector wrote.
One pig in the petting zoo area had hooves that were so long that they were curling upward which could lead to discomfort, pain and crippling in animals, according to the inspection report. The animal had not received veterinary care.
Photos taken at East Texas Zoo and Gator Park.
The USDA requires licensed facilities to keep records for animals that are acquired or disposed of so that they can ensure the humane care, treatment and transportation of regulated species. Clay has repeatedly been cited for failing to keep records for his animals. The inspector wrote in her report that she found Clay was missing records for nine animals that he had recently acquired and four animals that he had recently disposed of.
When combined, the missing records at East Texas Zoo and Franklin Drive Thru Safari account for a combined total of 216 animals that Clay has acquired and 179 animals that he has disposed of in the past year without documentation.
The March 2022 infractions resulted in a total of two non-critical violations and one direct violation.
In June 2021, the USDA found that Clay did not employ a regularly attending veterinarian at his Franklin Drive Thru Safari location. An aardvark was missing the tip of his or her tail and a veterinarian had not been notified of the problem and therefore could not diagnose or treat it. A pygmy hippo and a young giraffe had died “acutely and suspiciously” but no veterinarian had treated them prior to their death or performed a necropsy. Clay was cited with an Official Warning for attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care. The Official Warning indicates that if the USDA finds evidence of future violations of these regulations they may seek civil penalties, criminal prosecution or other sanctions.
In August 2021 East Texas Zoo and Gator Park was cited for attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care for two capybaras that were so thin that their backbone was showing. The animals had not received veterinary attention.
In November 2021 East Texas Zoo and Gator Park was cited for attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care after the USDA found two servals experiencing hair loss that had not been treated for the issue at the time of the inspection.
The March 2022 citation for attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care is evidence that Clay has now violated the same USDA regulation three more times after being cited with an Official Warning.
In January, the Animal Legal Defense Fund submitted a complaint urging the USDA to revoke Clay’s USDA license which was set to expire on May 4, 2022. ALDF wrote that Clay’s pervasive history of Animal Welfare Act noncompliance has resulted in serious neglect, abuse, lack of veterinary care and deplorable living conditions for the animals confined at his two Texas roadside zoos. The USDA website indicates that they have renewed Clay’s license through May 2025.
Clay is on 10 years of felony deferred probation for two prior incidents that he was charged for in 2018 which included exploitation of a child, elderly individual or disabled individual for withdrawing $187,000 from a disabled individual’s bank account without the man’s consent and for felony aggravated assault for seriously beating a man in a bar brawl. As part of the terms of his probation, Clay is not to break any laws. The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Clay is also under investigation related to a 2019 shooting death that occurred on his property across the street from Franklin Drive Thru Safari.
Despite repeatedly violating federal laws, Clay remains free and his two roadside zoos remain open. No serious action has been taken against him.
Download East Texas Zoo and Gator Park's March 2022 USDA Inspection Report: