Looking For An Animal Trainer?

Explore this section to learn about some of the animal exhibitors that frequently supply animals for film and television productions. Please contact PETA for more information or if you have any questions about an exhibitor not listed here.

Sidney Yost’s Amazing Animal Productions

Covington, Louisiana

Sidney Yost, who operates a company called Amazing Animal Productions (formerly known as Amazing Animal Actors), has a long history of mistreating animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently filed charges against him for at least 44 violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). According to the USDA’s complaint, Yost was observed hitting a capuchin monkey, a lion, and tigers with a stick referred to as a “pig stick,” and his employees physically abused wolves and wolf hybrids. News of physical abuse at the facility does not come as a surprise since Yost relinquished his chimpanzees after a primatologist witnessed him and his staff punching, beating, and otherwise abusing young chimpanzees in 2003. Yost has been cited repeatedly since 2008 for animal welfare violations, including the failure to supply nutritious food free of contamination and adequate housing for animals. Dogs, wolf hybrids, and a lynx were housed in enclosures so small that they were unable to make “normal postural adjustments.”

Yost has also been cited repeatedly since 2008 for endangering members of the public, including children, by allowing them to have direct contact with wolves and big cats. According to the USDA, in some cases these animals were not even vaccinated against rabies. For example, in 2009, Yost allowed a young child to have contact with hybrid wolves who had not been vaccinated against rabies, and one of the hybrid wolves bit the child and injured her. Yost was also cited for failing to maintain enclosures in order to contain dangerous animals at his facility adequately.


Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife

Frazier Park, California

Steve Martin’s Working Wildlife has failed to meet the minimal federal standards for the care of animals used for exhibition as established by the AWA. The USDA has cited the company for failure to provide adequate veterinary care, failure to have an environmental-enhancement program to promote the psychological well-being of primates, failure to supply adequate shelter from the elements, failure to provide animals with minimum space, inadequate ventilation, filthy cages, and improper feeding. Martin has callously disposed of animals who were no longer useful to him by advertising in dubious animal-trade publications and by dumping them at seedy roadside zoos.


Karl Mitchell’s Big Cat Encounters

Karl Mitchell has a long and infamous history of neglecting and cruelly treating animals. In 2001, the USDA took the extraordinary step of permanently revoking his license and fined him $16,775 for at least 45 violations of the AWA, including forcing animals to live in unsanitary conditions; failing to offer adequate veterinary care; depriving animals of wholesome food, water, and adequate, secure shelter; cruelly withholding water as a training technique; keeping large cats in tiny cages; refusing to allow federal inspectors to examine records; and even threatening, abusing, and harassing federal inspectors.

Mitchell’s federal exhibitor license has been permanently revoked for his willful disregard of numerous federal laws governing the care and humane treatment of exotic animals and those intended to ensure public safety. Mitchell has continued to exhibit animals illegally, despite not being licensed by the USDA. Since the 2001 revocation of his license, he has been served with three cease-and-desist orders and more than $100,000 in fines. He is currently under investigation by both the USDA and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


Randy Miller’s Predators in Action

Big Bear City, California

Randy Miller’s Predators in Action has failed to meet the minimal federal standards for the care of animals used for exhibition as established by the AWA. The USDA cited Predators in Action for keeping a lion in a cage so small that the animal could not move freely. The cage did not afford the lion protection from below-freezing temperatures or the 4 to 5 inches of snow on the ground. Miller has disposed of unwanted animals—including a cougar, a leopard, a bear, and three tigers—by advertising them as “free” in Animal Finder’s Guide, a trade magazine that caters to private menageries and hunting ranches.

In 2008, a 5-year-old grizzly bear named Rocky, whom Miller hand-raised, fatally mauled a handler during a commercial shoot. Rocky had been featured in Will Ferrell’s film Semi-Pro not long before the mauling.


Animals of Montana (Troy Hyde)

Animals of Montana has a history of violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and other federal laws and has continued to show a total disregard for the safety and well-being of the animals it holds captive as well as its own employees. Animals of Montana owner Troy Hyde was convicted in 2005 for illegally trafficking tigers in violation of the federal Endangered Species and Lacey acts, and his U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) exhibitor’s license was suspended for two years.

Benjamin Cloutier, an employee at Animals of Montana, was mauled to death by a grizzly bear in November 2012, which the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognized as preventable. Hyde willfully subjected Cloutier and other employees to life-threatening conditions on a daily basis by having them handle dangerous wild animals in a “free-contact” system, wherein there are no barriers between humans and wild predatory animals. Free contact is well recognized by Hyde himself as posing serious risks of death and injury. OSHA cited and proposed the maximum penalty against Animals of Montana for a “serious” violation of the Occupational Safety and Health Act stemming from this fatal attack.

According to the Associated Press, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ investigation into the mauling revealed “numerous animal escapes from the company that were not reported as required,” including “a black panther, a pair of breeding lions, and a wolf pup.” Animals of Montana also purportedly reported a near-fatal injury—in which a mountain lion cut an employee’s scalp down to the skull—as a mere “scratch.” Animals of Montana has repeatedly violated the AWA, and PETA has asked for further investigation by the USDA.


T.I.G.E.R.S

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The grandiosely named T.I.G.E.R.S.—The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species—operated by exhibitor Bhagavan (Kevin) Antle, has a long and notorious history. The facility supplies big cat cubs and infant apes for the entertainment industry and is one of PETA’s “deadly destinations”.

Antle has failed to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the AWA and has an entrenched history of poor animal care. He has been repeatedly cited and fined by the USDA for serious violations of the AWA, including the failure to provide animals with veterinary care, proper shelter, and nutritious food; failure to handle dangerous animals safely; and failure to offer sufficient environmental enhancement to promote the psychological well-being of nonhuman primates.

Even the USDA, not known for taking an aggressive stand, noted in an internal memo: “Antle’s statements concerning the incidents and related problems were inconsistent in many areas. The feeling of all the investigators mentioned in this report is Antle is of questionable character.”


Mike Casey

Las Vegas, Nevada

Mike Casey, who makes his living from exploiting three young chimpanzees named Kenzy, Hannah, and Bentley, has a notoriously poor history of animal care. USDA records document his numerous violations of the AWA, including the failure to provide juvenile chimpanzees with proper care and the failure to offer safe and sanitary enclosures. Casey has used tiny transport cages as primary housing for these complex animals for several years, denying them the space, sanitary living conditions, enrichment, and socialization that they require for their most minimal needs to be met.

In 2010, an inspector with the USDA determined that Casey punched Kenzy for “misbehavior” and threw a cup of hot water at one of the other chimpanzees for the same reason. The inspector also reported that Casey admitted to leaving the animals in the care of someone who has no experience or training to work with them while he is away. In five USDA inspections between May 2010 and June 2011, Casey was not once found to be in compliance with the AWA.

Travis, the “pet” chimpanzee who was killed by police after ripping off a Connecticut woman’s face in 2009, was born at Casey’s compound when he operated in Missouri, as was the chimpanzee Timmy, who was shot and killed after attacking a sheriff’s deputy. In 2001, three chimpanzees escaped from an enclosure at the Missouri compound, and one was shot and killed.

Casey is currently holding chimpanzees illegally in Pahrump, Nevada. He is not licensed by the state of California to supply animals for productions.


Birds & Animals Unlimited

Multiple Locations

Birds & Animals Unlimited, owned by trainer Gary Gero, has demonstrated a chronic failure to meet the minimal federal standards of the AWA. The USDA has issued four official warnings to Birds & Animals Unlimited for repeatedly failing to comply with veterinary care requirements, failing to provide animals with shelter from heat and sunlight, improper food storage, and failure to maintain enclosures to prevent escape. Birds & Animals Unlimited has also been cited by the USDA for failures to offer veterinary care and environmental enhancement to promote the psychological well-being of primates, to provide animals with shelter from the elements and minimum space, and to clean filthy and foul-smelling cages. A child actor filed a lawsuit against Birds & Animals for injuries sustained when he was bitten in the face by a chimpanzee.


Have Trunk Will Travel

Perris, California

Gary and Kari Johnson, owners of Have Trunk Will Travel (HTWT), a company that supplies elephants for film and television productions, are notorious for exploiting elephants. Most of their elephants were captured in the wild, and they have sold at least two elephants to a traveling circus. In comments concerning federal policy changes regarding training and handling practices for elephants, HTWT defended the use of cruel electric prods on elephants. The elephants used by HTWT—who would walk many miles a day in the wild with their families—are chained in place by one front foot and one back foot all night, every night.

The Johnsons use an archaic circus-style method of handling elephants that involves physical abuse with heavy, sharp metal rods called bullhooks. In 2011, Animal Defenders International released undercover video footage that shows trainers at HTWT as they abuse elephants at their facility.


Zoological Wildlife Foundation/Zoological Imports

Miami, FL

Zoological Wildlife Foundation, also known as Zoological Imports, is a chronic violator of the AWA. Mario Tabraue, owner of the company, has admitted to making false and inaccurate claims to federal authorities about his animal dealings, and his zoo has been cited for multiple violations, including keeping animals in unsafe enclosures.

Tabraue has a long criminal history as a former drug kingpin, including convictions for dismembering and burning the remains of a former federal informant, racketeering, and narcotics violations. His exotic-animal business served as a front for his drug-smuggling enterprise, which reportedly smuggled thousands of tons of marijuana and hundreds of pounds of cocaine into the U.S. In 1989, Tabraue was given a 100-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of 61 acts of racketeering. He became an informant and was freed after 12 years and promptly resumed his abusive animal business.

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