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600 reptiles and 18,000 rats saved from Global Captive Breeders, LLC

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600 reptiles and 18,000 rats saved from Global Captive Breeders

[Ed. Note: UPDATE July 2013 - Animal Dealer's Owner, Manager Arrested on Hundreds of Felony Charges]

From People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
December 2012

December 12, law-enforcement officials entered GCB in response to our investigator's evidence and mounted what became the largest rescue of neglected rats in U.S. history and the single largest seizure of animals ever in California. In total, more than 600 reptiles and 18,000 rats were relinquished by the facility's owner, Mitch Behm, and a criminal investigation is now underway.

For more than two months this year, a PETA investigator worked undercover to expose the horrifying pattern of misery and neglect endured by thousands of animals at Global Captive Breeders, LLC (GCB), a Lake Elsinore, Calif., company that bred and sold reptiles and rats. Today, we are revealing some of what our investigator documented at the facility, which housed rats and reptiles, including snakes, monitor lizards, skinks, tokay geckos, and sulcata tortoises. We found that some of the company's workers—including its manager—neglected thousands of these animals and cruelly killed countless others.

Below are just a few of the horrific photos taken by the investigator:

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GCB's manager killed these rats and many others. He laughed as he grabbed these rats by the tail and slammed them against a hard plastic tub.

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Many of GCB's monitor lizards were very underweight or emaciated, with plainly visible vertebrae, like this one, who was also missing skin from the white areas on his or her nose and back
.

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This weak and lethargic rat was found in another severely crowded tub among at least 200 other juvenile rats, many of whom were severely dehydrated and dying.

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Many of the facility's reptiles, including this emaciated snake, were neglected and left to starve. This snake, like others, was so thin that his or her ribs were visibly protruding.

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This snake languished for two months with severe facial swelling. A worker repeatedly punctured the animal's face with a thumbtack and squeezed it until pus erupted from the wounds.

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This rat's bloody eye deteriorated over the course of eight days, until a worker finally slammed her into a metal rack. She had a violent seizure then was thrown into the trash.

Just days ago, on December 12, law-enforcement officials entered GCB in response to our investigator's evidence and mounted what became the largest rescue of neglected rats in U.S. history and the single largest seizure of animals ever in California. In total, more than 600 reptiles and 18,000 rats were relinquished by the facility's owner, Mitch Behm, and a criminal investigation is now underway.

The cruelty documented by PETA's investigator at GCB is typical of the filth, crowding, deprivation, and stress that PETA's investigations of pet-trade suppliers have documented over and over again. Most of the thousands of rats who were kept at the facility were what the pet-trade industry refers to as "feeder" animals—bred and sold to be fed to snakes and other captive carnivorous reptiles who are kept as "pets." The rats were doomed to die terrifying, painful deaths inside GCB's walls and were also born into and kept in filth and misery throughout their entire dismal lives.

Workers at GCB routinely grabbed rats by their tails and slammed them into metal posts, racks, tables, and walls when they decided to kill them. Some rats, including newborns, were frozen alive. Others were bludgeoned or shot with a BB gun. Tubs used for housing the animals flooded frequently, drowning countless rats. Hundreds of animals were found dead in tubs, where they had been deprived of the most basic necessities, such as drinking water, nutritious food, moderately clean air, dry bedding, veterinary care, and even minimally humane handling.

PETA's undercover investigator exposed that conditions for the hundreds of reptiles confined to GCB were equally disturbing. Snakes, skinks, monitor lizards, and other reptiles were essentially left to die—their deaths so disregarded by staff members that their carcasses were left to rot in maggot-strewn cases. GCB's owner even went so far as to tell facility workers repeatedly not to care for reptiles since they weren't generating as much revenue as the rat-breeding operation. Many reptiles were kept shelved in lightless, opaque drawers so small that they could not move or eat normally and were trapped with their own waste and without access to water. When PETA's investigator told the manager that a debilitated blue-tongue skink needed care, the manager threw his hands in the air and exclaimed, "There is nothing I can do for him. ... [I]f he dies, he dies. That's better than him living here, I guess."