[Ed. Note: For background information, read Largest Rescue Ever: Dealer Loses Custody of 'Stock' Because of Cruel Treatment to Exotic Animals.]
By Heather Moore on Care2.com
While this is wonderful news, there is still much more that needs to be done to ensure that animals no longer suffer at facilities like USGE. People must refuse to support pet stores that continue to sell animals—any animals.
Since the raid, USGE has been effectively dead. It has not bought or sold a single animal, meaning that far more than 26,000 animals will be spared from the exotic pet trade.
Back in December, humane agents and officials from Arlington, Texas seized more than 26,000 neglected animals, including sloths, ringtail lemurs, hedgehogs, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, ferrets, scorpions, and other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from an Arlington-based hellhole known as U.S. Global Exotics, Inc. (USGE). The confiscation, which followed a seven-month undercover investigation by PETA, is believed to be the biggest in history.
During his time at USGE, PETA’s investigator saw animals crammed into soda bottles, milk jugs, and other containers that were unsuitable for housing animals, to say the least. (PETA’s investigator captured video footage showing a USGE employee trying to shake and pound frogs out of these hellish prisons.) Iguanas and other lizards perished inside mesh bags and "shipping cups," never even having been unloaded. At least 12,000 turtles remained boxed up for weeks in the facility's warehouse. In just one day, 657 turtles were recorded on the facility's dead list.
The rescuers extracted the decomposing, liquefying remains of more than 200 iguanas from bags containing nearly an equal number of live iguanas. The tropical animals had been kept in USGE’s frigid warehouse without food or water.
Sick, injured, and dying animals, including a squirrel whose neck had been severely lacerated and a chinchilla who was bleeding from a prolapsed rectum, were put into a freezer to die. (For more details and information on USGE’s other victims, see PETA’s blog. Be warned, however; the video footage is highly disturbing.)
For as long as I’ve been involved in the animal protection movement, I’ve seen one horrific case after another, each seemingly worse than the one before. But I can’t imagine what could possibly “top” this, and I hope to never find out.
But there is good news: In early January, after reviewing evidence collected by PETA’s investigator, including a picture of a hedgehog whose leg had been chewed off and video footage of dying snakes and a wallaby who had been left to perish in a filthy, windowless room, Arlington Municipal Judge Michael Smith divested Jasen and Vanessa Shaw—the owners and operators of USGE—of all of the animals.
The Shaw’s appealed the decision, but just the other day, Tarrant County Court Judge Jennifer Rymell, who also reviewed the evidence from PETA’s investigation, upheld the original ruling. The Shaw’s will never regain custody of the animals! They had no business having custody of them in the first place.
PETA arranged for experts to set up a facility to care for the animals who were seized from USGE. The SPCA of Texas, the Humane Society of North Texas, the Detroit Zoo, and other groups have been taking wonderful care of the animals, and PETA has secured permanent homes for many of the animals at the Detroit Zoo. (This just goes to show how zoos can step up and become refuges for rescued animals rather than for-profit ventures that capture or breed “popular” animals for public display.)
Since the raid, USGE has been effectively dead. It has not bought or sold a
single animal, meaning that far more than 26,000 animals will be spared from the
exotic pet trade.
While this is wonderful news, there is still much more that needs to be done to ensure that animals no longer suffer at facilities like USGE. People must refuse to support pet stores that continue to sell animals—any animals. For years, USGE imported and exported hundreds of thousands of animals a year for eventual sale at pet stores, including PETCO and PetSmart. PETA has investigated both of these companies—and other suppliers—in the past and found that neglect and abuse was the norm. (See my post about PetSmart for information about an undercover investigation at another one of PetSmart’s suppliers.)
As Judge Smith noted after ruling to divest the animals from USGE, “Evidence was received which indicated that this facility was operated in accordance with industry standards of the exotic animal trade. While this may be true, this Court is not free to substitute those standards for the standards set by Texas statutes."
Exotic animals belong in their natural habitats, not in substandard conditions in any facility in any state. If we are to stop the exotic animal trade once and for all, we must stop shopping at the stores that keep it alive—and encourage everyone we know to do the same.