Thousands of seized exotics will remain in care of rescue leagues

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Thousands of seized exotics will remain in care of rescue leagues

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Feb 18, 2010
By dvm360.com staff
Arlington -- The more than 26,000 exotic animals seized from a Texas pet-trade facility in December will remain in the custody of rescue groups.

The seizure, which is being called the largest animal rescue in a cruelty case ever in the United States, was labeled "unconstitutional" by attorneys for U.S. Global Exotics, the company from which the animals were seized by a city of Arlington warrant Dec. 15. The warrant was issued in response to an affidavit filed by a city animal control officer that stated he believed the more than 27,000 animals from 500 species at the facility were being cruelly treated.

A court ruling outlines the conditions found at the facility, which housed more than 26,000 wild-caught and farm-raised exotics from at least 500 species bound for the pet trade.

"Given that thousands of animals were clinically/subclinically sick on seizure, many will continue to suffer morbidity and mortality due to Global's abuse; veterinary treatment and other expert care can only do so much," says Dr. Clifford Warwick, a scientific specialist who aided in the seizure and testified in court. "My understanding is that Global was losing/throwing in the Dumpster 500 animals -- not all quite dead at the time -- a day (which fits with the finding of 600 animals discovered sick/dead at the facility on the day of the seizure), and that makes 3,500 animals a week."

Evidence cited in court records to justify the seizures stated the facility was "seriously understaffed," with only three employees solely employed for animal care. Experts testified at the hearing that 20 to 40 employees should have been in charge of caring for such a large number of animals. Poor air quality, overcrowded conditions leading to injuries and cannibalism, and deprivation of basic needs like food and water were among the other complaints about the facility. About 600 animals were found dead when the facility was raided, and another 4,000 died after the city of Arlington took custody of the animals.

The court ruled Jan. 5 that U.S. Global Exotics was stripped of all rights of ownership of the seized animals. An appeal was filed with the county Jan. 28 by U.S. Global Exotics, but was denied. Following the appeals ruling, rescue organizations that helped Arlington manage the seized animals, like the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Texas, said all but about 6,000 of the seized animals had been placed. The remainder were primarily hamsters and turtles, and arrangements were being made for their placement. The city transferred formal custody of the animals to SPCA of Texas, which housed them at a West Dallas facility until they could be placed among other rescue organizations. SPCA says about 20 people at a time were working at its facility to care for the rescued animals. The Humane Society of North Texas also helped Arlington relocate the animals.

SPCA said none of the animals seized will be placed up for adoption, but will instead be placed with reputable zoos and sanctuaries so they end up back in the pet trade business.