After Years of USDA Inaction, Exotic Animal Dealer Finally Out of Business

August 24, 2023


The operator of Even Keel Exotics agreed to surrender his USDA license and over 100 animals after the Department of Justice sued him in Federal Court. 

Zachery Keeler was an exotic animal dealer who sold thousands of hedgehogs, foxes, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, skunks and wild cats every year and hosted animal encounters and behind-the-scenes tours of his Michigan facility, Even Keel Exotics.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) had licensed the facility for over a decade and documented serious animal care and public safety issues for nearly as long. Yet, the USDA never took meaningful action to stop Keeler even when beginning last year he refused to let the agency onto his property for required inspections. 

Note on cage

Fox in cage

Hedgehogs in dirty container

The ASPCA submitted an official complaint to the USDA on June 23, 2023, requesting the revocation of Keeler’s license due to his refusal to allow the USDA on his property and his documented poor treatment of animals at Even Keel Exotics.

Just a few days later, the USDA finally inspected the property and found animals without access to clean food or water, animals kept in a barn that smelled of ammonia from urine, excessive flies and mouse droppings and a refrigerator and freezer that “had old, dried, and liquid blood with a very strong odor of decay.” Keeler again refused to let USDA inspectors in when they returned to assess the animals.  

The Department of Justice complaint filed in July accused Keeler of violating numerous Animal Welfare Act requirements and also detailed Keeler’s alleged violations of the Endangered Species Act which included prematurely separating an endangered ring-tailed lemur from its mother and attempting to sell the unlawfully taken ring-tailed lemur pup.    

In August, Keeler agreed to permanently refrain from buying, selling, transporting, exhibiting or delivering for transportation any regulated animal, permanently refrain from unlawfully taking any protected ring-tailed lemurs and surrender approximately 140 animals. Shortly after the Department of Justice case, the USDA formally revoked Keeler’s license, although the agency did not impose any other penalties against him.

We’re pleased that Keeler’s business is no longer sanctioned by the USDA and that he will no longer be permitted to profit from animals he has harmed. Unfortunately, countless animals suffered unnecessarily at Even Keel Exotics because the USDA allowed him to operate for so long. 

The USDA continues to fail animals in federally licensed facilities across the country. It’s time they do their job. Use our online form to contact your members of Congress TODAY and urge them to support Goldie’s Act, federal legislation that would require the USDA to conduct better inspections of licensed facilities and enforce the Animal Welfare Act.