Our staff drove to Michigan to help rescue 4 exotic cats from Even Keel Exotics, a facility with a long list of violations of the Animal Welfare Act and Endangered Species Act. They include 2 caracals, a fishing cat, and a young serval.

Even Keel Exotics was an exotic animal dealer who bought, sold, traded and exploited animals through paid animal encounters. Sadly, he offered encounters with young animals that had been taken from their mothers at just days and weeks old.

In all, 142 animals were seized and sent to reputable facilities where they will receive the compassionate care they deserve.

Thankfully, this facility has now been permanently closed down by authorities.

Since 2014, USDA inspection reports cite an astonishing 74 violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including animals being deprived of water and denied veterinary care.

Inspectors found animals living in cramped, filthy cages that didn’t even provide adequate shelter from inclement weather.

Our staff were one of the first teams onsite and safely removed the cats housed there. They saw cages that were barren and dirty. Luckily, these four cats are all under 3.5 years old and resilient.

Life at the Sanctuary

Sushi was mother raised, so she’s not very social to people. But after her arrival, she was very confident, coming up to caretakers for her food and soon learned to eat from their tongs. We’ve already got her enjoying fish for the first time!

Being a fishing cat, she’ll hopefully love water, but hasn’t explored her pools just yet.  It’s going to take her some time to learn she’s a fishing cat. She’s never been given that chance before.

Sushi’s very nocturnal which is consistent with fishing cats in the wild. She loves being in high or covered places. We love seeing how independent she is and that she has some spice!

Sushi will have an intake exam, deworming, vaccines and eventually be spayed. And we’ll be building her a very species-specific habitat that will allow her to stretch her wild side. We can’t wait to see her learn how to be a fishing cat after all!

How You Can Help

Sushi will have many years ahead of her here at the sanctuary. The day of rescue is just day one of a long lifetime of care costs.

One of the best ways to help is by becoming her sponsor parent. Or, another way is with a one time donation toward her care. It’s easy to do using the buttons at the top of this page. Thank you!

Fishing Cat Facts

  • The Fishing cat is the state animal of West Bengal.  The Fishing cat currently is found in south and Southeast Asia
  • Fishing cats are most closely related to Pallas cats, rusty-spotted cats, leopard cats and flat-headed cats.
  • Unlike many cat species, fishing cats readily swim. Their front toes are partially webbed, and their claws protrude slightly even when retracted, an adaptation for fishing. Their round, elongated head is also adapted for diving.
  • Fishing cats in captivity have been seen taking cow’s meat to the water, dropping it in, and then taking it out and eating it. When offered live quail, this same washing behavior was observed.
  • Fishing cats may look cute and cuddly but they can be very aggressive.
  • A cat’s ear contains 32 muscles and can rotate almost 180 degrees, so without turning its head, it is able to hear in several directions.
  • When it swims, the Fishing cat is able to use its flattened, short tail like a rudder, to help control its direction.
  • The Fishing cat hunts by patting the water to make tiny waves as if insects were landing on the water. Fish are attracted to this. When fish appear, the Fishing cat catches them in its paws or dives into the water to catch them.
  • A significant difference between the Fishing cat and its relatives is that its claws do not fully retract, the tips remaining to stick out a little from the sheath of skin they have on their toes, whereas most cats can retract their claws completely when they are not using them, in order to stop them from becoming blunt.

More information on Fishing cats can be found at:



Even Keel Exotics shutting down, USDA to seize 142 animals

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 4:29 PM MDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2023 at 5:20 PM MDT

TEMPERANCE, Mich. (WTVG) – A judge has ordered the owner of an exotic animal farm in Temperance, Michigan, to shut down his business and is prohibiting him from buying or selling any regulated animal following a series of Animal Welfare Act violations.

A consent decree obtained by 13 Action News shows Zachery Keeler with Even Keel Exotics must also surrender the animals currently under the farm’s care. The agreement says that the USDA must take all of the animals by August 29. It goes on to say the agreement resolves the civil claims the U.S. brought against Keeler and the animal farm for the alleged Animal Welfare Act violations.

The USDA filed a civil lawsuit against Even Keel Exotics earlier this year for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act over the last two years. The complaint says Keeler has violated the Animal Welfare Act in several ways including, “failing to grant APHIS officials access to the Even Keel Exotics facility 13 out of the 23 times APHIS officials have attempted to inspect the facility.”

It also says Keeler has failed to meet minimum standards for handling each animal, citing the footage 13 Action News captured at the exotic animal farm back in December.

“Inspectors noted Keeler recognized the animal did not want to be handled, however, he continued to struggle with the animal for an additional 10-15 seconds, resulting in the animal suffering from a bloody nose from hitting his nose on the ground during the struggle,” the complaint read.

13 Action News reporter Carli Petrus reached out to Keeler and his attorney by email earlier this month for comment on the case, but neither of them replied.

We first told you about Even Keel Exotics last December. At the time, the USDA had recorded 70 reports of Animal Welfare Act violations at Even Keel Exotics from 35 investigations dating back to 2014, documents show.

Keeler defended his business against those allegations in an interview in December, saying the USDA only comes out a few times a year and they only see a small snapshot of how they operate.

“The industry in general can be a controversial one,” Keeler said in the 2022 interview. “Half of your viewers are going to see this segment and they’re just going to want to come out here and enjoy everything we have to offer. The other half are going to believe that no one should own these animals and they shouldn’t even be in captivity even on a zoo level.”

The animals being seized include:

  • (2) Red foxes
  • (1) Serval
  • (7) Ring-tailed lemurs
  • (3) Kinkajous
  • (1) Fishing cat
  • (Approximately 50) Black-tailed prairie dogs
  • (6) Striped skunks
  • (4) Bennett’s wallaby
  • (Approximately 60) Richardson’s ground squirrel
  • (2) Prehensile-tailed porcupines
  • (1) African crested porcupine
  • (5) Fennec foxes

It’s unclear at this time whether officials have already seized the animals.