Exotic Big Cats in Jeopardy in Kaufman County

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Exotic Big Cats in Jeopardy in Kaufman County

By Brett Shipp on WFAA.com

Marcus Cook is accused of endangering the lives of the public and his exotic animals.

Both the federal and state government have tried to shut him down.

But the big cat exhibitor is still in business — and in trouble again.

When we first met Cook in 2002, he was operating a tiger cub petting exhibit at Six Flags Over Texas. Since that time, he has been repeatedly cited by state and federal officials for endangering the lives of his employees and the public, and for putting his exotic animals at risk.


One of six big cats from Marcus Cook's compound who had to be rescued and rehabilitated.
Photo courtesy WFAA.com

In September 2008, an administrative judge stripped Cook of his exhibitor's license.

Cook appealed, and last year he continued to travel the country showing his big cats at fairs and special events.

Meanwhile, the big cats left behind at his Kaufman County compound were becoming malnourished and sick. Six of the cats were rescued and rehabilitated.

Four weeks ago, Cook's compound was inspected again and more problems were discovered.

United States Department of Agriculture inspectors said "there continues to be concern for additional animals at this facility."

"Bagherra (a tiger) and the cougars appear to have lost body condition from our previous inspection," the report said.

Earlier visits had discovered "chronic inadequate veterinary care, poor nutrition and poor drainage," according to the report.

"This is nothing but just a payback," said Cook. "I think people are being misled by the USDA."

Cook, who spoke with News 8 just outside his compound gate on Wednesday, said he could not permit access to see the animals in question.

Cook did send us photographs that he said were taken of the three animals Wednesday. All three appeared to be in good shape.

But Cook's critics say the time is past for the government to remove all the animals from harm's way.

"Marcus has demonstrated he is not going to change the way he treats his animals," said animal advocate Robert "Skip" Trimble. "That treatment is cruel and inhumane, and I hope that the USDA will step up and remove those animals from this torture they are going through."

Cook says he is appealing the most recent inspection report. He says his animals are healthy, and his feeding protocols have been approved.

Cook believes the government is just out to get him.