Controversial exhibitor owner of seized tigers, lion
05:57 PM CDT on Monday, March 23, 2009
By JONATHAN BETZ / WFAA-TV
Investigators have revealed that two tigers and a lion, which were seized by the United States Department of Agriculture, belonged to Marcus Cook – who has been under the federal government’s scope for years.
Investigators said the large animals came from the North Texas wildlife exhibitor, who has been accused of repeatedly putting the public’s safety at risk.
Since 2002, News 8 has also followed Cook in a series of reports. One concern raised in the News 8 stories was that of a video that showed a young tiger biting a trainer. Cook has leased his exotic cats to zoos and theme parks. At one point, he allowed the public to pet the animals as part of the exhibit.
Now, he faces allegations of abusing several of his large cats.
The tigers and lion have found sanctuary at In-Sync Exotics Wildlife Rescue and Education Center in Wylie. Rescuers said the large cats are recovering from one of the worst cases of abuse volunteers have seen.
In the case of the lion, the large cat had chewed of part of his own tail out of stress or boredom, said Vicky Keahey, the owner of the wildlife center.
Over the weekend, the USDA seized the large cats that agents said suffered from a lack of veterinary care and food.
In court documents, Cook has been accused of housing tigers and lions in dangerous and filthy cages. In one case, lions were reportedly forced to live in standing water for days. In another, documents said a tiger escaped and injured a worker.
“They look pretty, pretty neglected to me,” Keahey said. “You just wonder how people can let them get like that.”
News 8 does not yet know if Cook will face animal cruelty charges. In repeated attempts by News 8 to get answers, the USDA made no comment on where the case stands.
Federal agents have tried to revoke Cook’s business license, but Cook has appealed, which allows him to stay in business.
MORE: Reports on Marcus Cook