Animal News

Notorious animal trainer southeast of Dallas gets shut down by USDA

Notorious animal trainer southeast of Dallas gets shut down by USDA

Doug Terranova elephant
Doug Terranova a decade ago, when he still had elephants. YouTube

A notorious animal exhibitor in Kaufman, Texas, with numerous violations has been shut down by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Doug Terranova had his license permanently revoked and has been ordered to pay $64,700 in fines.

According to a release, the order came after Terranova was found to be exhibiting tigers with Carden International Circus without a license — a violation of federal law that can merit criminal charges.

Terranova supplies animal shows — currently big cats — to circuses and fairs; a YouTube video shows the unfortunate road conditions for the animals. He has a lengthy record of violations dating back to 2005, including an incident in 2013, when one of his tigers escaped at a Shrine circus in Salina, Kansas, and confronted a woman in a public bathroom.

As a result, his license was suspended in 2016, and he was assessed $21,500 for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and for failing to obey a previous cease-and-desist order. He's been sued for improper treatment of animals on the road and for unsafe handling, and given citations for substandard housing at his facility in Kaufman, with issues such as rotting floors and poorly secured roofs.

Before tigers, Terranova's prior history included his possession of three elephants. One named Kamba got loose and ran onto an Oklahoma roadway in 2009, where she was hit by an SUV.

In 2010, he sold Kamba and another elephant, Congo, to the Dallas Zoo. The zoo hired him as a zookeeper, but he was forced to resign in 2011.

In 2012, he was fined $25,000 by the USDA for the elephant accident, and subsequently barred from possessing elephants.

That's when he switched to big cats. He was featured in a 2011 episode of Animal Planet, which shows him exposing his then 12-year-old daughter to direct contact with five tigers, and details the bloody attack he endured by one of his cougars. He acknowledges that his being in the cage alone was against protocol, but says, "I make the rules, so I can break 'em, right?"

In the decision to revoke Terranova's license, the officer wrote, "Although this sanction may seem relatively severe, Respondents' continued failures to abide by the Regulations and Standards, to the detriment of animal health and safety to the public, shows that Respondents are not qualified to be licensed."

PETA, the animal advocacy organization, has been on Terranova's case for more than a decade and more than once has forecast that his days as an animal trainer would come to an end. But this is the first time his license has been revoked permanently, although it's possible he'll file an appeal.

"Doug Terranova's years of allowing animals to escape and willfully evading federal inspectors have finally caught up with him," says PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet in a statement. "With Terranova out of business, there are now only nine licensed exhibitors in the U.S. who force lions and tigers to perform in archaic circus shows — and PETA will keep working until that number is down to zero."