Two Texas roadside zoos finish out 2021 with 26 violations and an Official Warning


A serval in an enclosure at East Texas Zoo and Gator Park.

East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and Franklin Drive Thru Safari, both located in Texas, finished out 2021 with a grand total of 26 violations of the Animal Welfare Act and an Official Warning.


Both of the roadside zoos are owned by Jason Clay. Clay’s troubles started in June when the USDA inspected the Franklin Drive Thru Safari location and found there was no attending veterinarian for the animals at the facility. A giraffe and a hippo had died “acutely and suspiciously” but no veterinarian had been contacted for the animals before or after their death, according to the report. The inspector documented injured animals, filthy enclosures and enclosures in need of repairs.


The facility was cited with seven violations for the infractions. The USDA also cited Clay with an Official Warning which indicated that if they found evidence of future violations they may pursue civil penalties, criminal prosecution, or other sanctions.


In August, the USDA inspected the East Texas Zoo and Gator Park location and found filthy enclosures with accumulated feces and a strong smell of ammonia. Two capybaras were skinny and the facility’s food preparation area was swarming with flies. The facility was cited for their giraffe and muntjac enclosures that were “inappropriate” and posed an escape risk for the animals. The roadside zoo was also allowing public unsupervised contact with the giraffe, capybara, tapir, kangaroo, and various hoof stock, according to the USDA report. They were cited with 11 violations for the infractions.


Shortly after the August USDA inspection, East Texas Zoo’s only giraffe, named Loki, was removed from the facility and he has not been returned.


In September, the USDA conducted another inspection at Franklin Drive Thru Safari and found that several enclosures had an accumulation of old food materials and an excessive accumulation of feces, according to the inspection report. One primate cage contained the desiccated remains of a dead rat. An enclosure of pigs was found to have no water to drink and when they were provided with water they were observed drinking for a “considerable amount of time” until the water bowl was empty, according to the report. Clay was cited with four violations for the infractions.


From June-September the USDA documented more than 330 animals that were either acquired or disposed of without documentation at East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and Franklin Drive Thru Safari in the past year.


In November, the USDA conducted an inspection at the East Texas Zoo and Gator Park location. The USDA found two servals that were experiencing hair loss. According to the facility representative the veterinarian was aware of the issue and had advised treatment, but the treatment had not been provided at the time of the inspection. The inspector found several primate enclosures and an otter enclosure that were filthy with an accumulation of feces, old food and dirt. The inspector also found that the facility was not providing appropriate environmental enhancement to promote their primate’s psychological well-being.


East Texas Zoo was cited with four violations for the infractions. The USDA animal inventory indicates that numerous animals that were at East Texas Zoo in August were no longer at the facility in November. Those animals include one hill wallaroo, two mountain coatis, one giraffe, one lion, two four-toed hedgehogs, 11 vervets, two ferrets and two red kangaroos.


The November violations bring the total found at East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and Franklin Drive Thru Safari to 26 violations and an Official Warning to finish out 2021.


Clay is on felony deferred probation for two prior incidents. In 2017, Clay severely beat a man at a bar. In 2018, Clay stole a disabled individual’s lottery ticket and cashed it in for $180,000. As part of Clay’s felony probation requirements, he is not to break any laws.


The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Clay is currently under investigation related to a 2019 shooting death that occurred on his property.