Brown County zookeeper wants rollback of ban on exotic animals


BROWN COUNTY, Texas - Brown County Commissioners heard a zookeeper's request on Monday to reconsider a ban on certain types of exotic animals.

Rusty Waddle, 50, owns W and W Zoo, located eight miles north of Early along Highway 183, and told commissioners he wants to bring baby lions and tigers, and baboons.

"If anybody's going to get hurt, I would not have it," Waddle told commissioners on Monday.

The county passed a rule in 2002 banning residents living in unincorporated areas from owning some exotic animals, including lions, bears, tigers, and baboons.

Waddle, who's handled animals for more than 30 years, is hoping to introduce new animals as he expands his zoo to attract more customers.

"As to the listed animals, if you qualify for the state regulation, you qualify with us," Brown County Judge Ray West told Waddle in court.

Waddle stressed to commissioners how important safety is for not only those who visit his zoo but also for his animals.

"All of my gates [and] doors have got triple locks," he told KTXS.

West says he would allow him to bring the previously banned animals under the supervision of the county.

"Someone from the sheriff's office [will] come out and be animal control and look at everything," Waddle said.

Waddle already has licenses with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the United States Department of Agriculture to own the animals. A USDA agent visited Waddle's zoo just last week for an inspection, which he passed.

"It's not easy to keep a license [with USDA], because they inspect periodically. It's not like you can get ready with them, you have to stay ready," Waddle said.

The zoo is currently closed and will reopen next weekend.