Police seek Romulus ‘bootleg zookeeper’ who owned 300 hedgehogs, kangaroo, more animals

More than 300 hedgehogs found

Man wanted for hoarding 500 exotic animals

ROMULUS, Mich. – Police are searching for a man labelled as a “bootleg zookeeper” months after officials seized hundreds of exotic animals -- including 300 hedgehogs, two kangaroos and a 200-pound snake -- from a Romulus home.

Authorities said they received a tip Aug. 15 that someone was illegally housing animals in the 31000 block of Ecorse Road behind a strip mall in Romulus.

Officials found more than 300 hedgehogs, six Flemish giant rabbits, three large iguanas, two kangaroos, an Arctic fox, a peacock and a 16-foot, 200-pound reticulated python, according to authorities.

Police are looking for Javon Pherras Stacks, 36, in connection with the case. A warrant for his arrest has been issued, officials said.

“It’s wrong,” said Basil Shounia, who has worked at the liquor store at the mall plaza for years. “You should never do that.”

Shounia said he never saw or heard anything out of the ordinary until dozens of police officers and animal control officials came to the parking lot in August.

“They just told us that one of the guys in the building -- he was selling animals,” Shounia said.

Police are looking to charge Stacks with several cases of animal cruelty, neglect and abandonment.

“I can’t say anything about him because I don’t know what was going on and what he was doing,” Shounia said. “Isn’t he supposed to have a license or something?”

All the animals have been relocated. Many are back in their natural habitat, officials said.

An Arctic fox that was rescued from a "bootleg zookeeper" in Romulus on Aug. 15, 2019. (WDIV)
A kangaroo that was rescued from a "bootleg zookeeper" in Romulus on Aug. 15, 2019. (WDIV)
A kangaroo that was rescued from a "bootleg zookeeper" in Romulus on Aug. 15, 2019. (WDIV)
Flemish giant rabbits that were rescued from a "bootleg zookeeper" in Romulus on Aug. 15, 2019. (WDIV)
Hedgehogs that were rescued from a "bootleg zookeeper" in Romulus on Aug. 15, 2019. (WDIV)
A peacock that was rescued from a "bootleg zookeeper" in Romulus on Aug. 15, 2019. (WDIV)

About the Authors:

Victor Williams joined Local 4 News in October of 2019 after working for WOIO in Cleveland, OH, WLOX News in Biloxi, MS, and WBBJ in Jackson, TN. Victor developed a love for journalism after realizing he was a great speaker and writer at an early age.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.