Gipson, associate deputy administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s
(USDA) veterinary services unit, urging him to revoke the exhibitor’s
license of Charles Azzopardi, who owns the Amarillo Wildlife Refuge (AWR).
PETA’s request comes on the heels of Azzopardi’s July 21 conviction on
federal charges of illegally selling wild and exotic animals in violation of
the Endangered Species Act. According to news reports, Azzopardi was
sentenced to 180 days of home confinement and three years of probation and
was ordered to pay a fine of $2,000.
The charges against Azzopardi stemmed from a July 2005 incident in which he
unlawfully attempted to sell two endangered clouded leopards to a buyer in
Oklahoma for $5,000 each. The “buyer” turned out to be an undercover U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service agent. PETA points out that according to federal
regulations, any person convicted of violating federal laws regarding the
transportation and ownership of animals is not eligible to hold a USDA
In 2003, PETA conducted an undercover investigation that revealed that AWR
is a shoddy, filthy, unaccredited roadside zoo masquerading as an animal
refuge. The investigation documented numerous violations of the federal
Animal Welfare Act: Chimpanzees had untreated wounds and severe hair loss, a
baby gibbon was kept in isolation after being taken away from his mother,
and sick and hungry animals were languishing in filthy enclosures, among
“Azzopardi’s conviction for illegally selling endangered leopards and his
record of animal abuse and neglect make him unfit to keep wildlife,” says
PETA Director Debbie Leahy. “The only way to ensure that federal laws are
enforced and prevent further animal suffering is to revoke his license,
confiscate all the animals, and shut him down for good.”
For more information, please visit PETA’s Web site WildlifePimps.com.
PETA’s letter to the USDA follows.
July 27, 2006
Chester A. Gipson, D.V.M.
Associate Deputy Administrator
4700 River Rd., Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234
1 page via fax: 301-734-4993
Dear Dr. Gipson:
On July 21, Charles Azzopardi-the owner of Amarillo Wildlife Refuge (AWR) in
Amarillo, Texas, USDA license #74-C-0486-was convicted of illegally selling
wild and exotic animals in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
Azzopardi was assessed a $2,000 fine, sentenced to 180 days of home
confinement, and placed on probation for three years.
As you know, AWR was the subject of a PETA undercover investigation in 2003
that revealed horrific conditions at the facility and many violations of the
federal Animal Welfare Act.
Chronic problems are evident at this facility, and Azzopardi has
demonstrated his inability and/or unwillingness to comply with federal laws.
Please consider this letter an official request for the USDA to immediately
terminate AWR’s license pursuant to 9 C.F.R. §§ 2.12 and 2.11, which provide
that a license cannot be held by an individual who has been found to have
violated any federal, state, or local laws or regulations pertaining to the
transportation, ownership, neglect, or welfare of animals. PETA also
requests that the USDA confiscate all regulated animals at the facility and
ensure that they are not placed at another pseudo-sanctuary or roadside zoo.
May we please be notified of your decision? I can be reached at
757-622-7382. Thank you for your time.
Captive Exotic Animal Specialist
cc: Dr. Robert M. Gibbens, Western Regional Director, USDA-APHIS-AC
Carole Baskin, Founder of Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, FL 33625 MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org