Guilty plea in Atchison exotic animal case

An Atchison, Kan., man who had kept bobcats, lynx, cougars and a tiger in ill-equipped enclosures, often leaving them for days at a time, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of animal cruelty.

Matthew Baker also pleaded guilty to failing to comply with federal agricultural regulations, because he did not possess permits to possess or breed such animals, and animal care requirements.

On May 5, authorities seized three bobcats; two lynx; two servals (a medium-sized cat that resembles a leopard), one of which was dead; two cougars; and a tiger from an Atchison property on 262nd Street.

The Atchison County sheriff’s office began its inquiry into Baker’s animals in March. During the investigation, law enforcement and animal care specialists, including some from the Kansas City Zoo, determined that Baker only had been on the property five times between March 9 and May 5 to feed the animals and otherwise check on them.

Authorities considered the cages in which the animals were kept not structurally sound.

The zoo representatives also determined the animals had not been supplied enough food based on aggressive behavior they exhibited while being fed.

Baker also pleaded guilty Monday to misdemeanor obstruction of law enforcement and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Authorities said he arrived on the property during the rescue operation and began screaming profanities at sheriff’s deputies and trying to push past them. Deputies eventually had to use physical force to restrain Baker and recovered a pipe that contained narcotic residue.

The substance continues to be tested by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.

Baker is to be sentenced on July 1.