We’ve just received word that Arlington (Texas) Municipal Judge Michael Smith has divested Jasen and Vanessa Shaw—owners and operators of animal warehouse U.S. Global Exotics, Inc. (USGE)—of the more than 26,000 mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids who were seized from USGE on December 15. U.S. Global Exotics, Inc., is a major player in the pet trade. For years, the company has imported and exported hundreds of thousands of animals every year for eventual sale at major pet stores and pet store chains all over the world, including at U.S.-based PETCO and PetSmart.
A PETA undercover investigator spent seven months working at U.S. Global Exotics and documented horrifically cruel conditions for animals. On December 15, Arlington officials and humane agents rescued more than 26,000 animals, including wallabies, sloths, ringtail lemurs, kinkajous, coatimundis, agoutis, hedgehogs, chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, flying squirrels, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, ferrets, snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, spiders, crabs, and scorpions from this facility. This seizure is believed to be the largest animal confiscation in history.
Judge Smith’s decision to award custody of the animals to the city of Arlington comes on the heels of a seven-day hearing during which lawyers for the exotic-animal dealer tried every trick in the book to downplay Jasen and Vanessa Shaw’s failure to provide animals in their care with basic, minimal necessities such as food, water, and adequate housing. However, the evidence that our investigator meticulously documented while inside U.S. Global Exotics’ facility—as well as the evidence gathered on the day of the seizure—could not be refuted. Here is some of what we found:
- A staff of only three or four people was tasked with providing care for tens of thousands of animals. Animals suffered greatly from cruel confinement in severely crowded and filthy containers, including soda bottles and milk jugs, litter pans, cattle-feeding troughs, and barren wire cages. Hundreds of animals were denied basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care.
- Hundreds of sick, injured, and dying animals were put in a chest freezer to die. Some of them, including a squirrel whose neck had been severely lacerated and a chinchilla who was bleeding from a prolapsed rectum, survived for hours before succumbing.
- Countless wild-caught animals were forced to make grueling journeys from their native habitats. They were subjected to deplorable, substandard conditions and care and were kept for days or weeks in pillowcases, shipping boxes, or soda bottles without food or water or even proper heat and humidity.
- Exotic animals—some of whom were members of endangered species—were continually kept inside barren bins, wire bird cages, and dungeon-like metal troughs, sometimes for months or years. Many developed abnormal, stress-induced neurotic behaviors such as incessant pacing, frantic clawing, and fighting for space and food.
- Hundreds of iguanas and other lizards who were never unpacked upon arrival perished inside mesh bags and “shipping cups”—and at least 12,000 turtles remained boxed up for weeks in the facility’s warehouse, deprived of food, water, light, and adequate ventilation. In one day, 657 turtles were recorded on the facility’s dead list.
- On the day of the seizure, the decomposing, liquefying remains of more than 200 iguanas were extracted from bags containing almost as many live iguanas, all of whom had been crammed into wooden crates at USGE’s frigid warehouse and left without food or water for nearly two weeks in preparation for a shipment to Egypt.
- Green tree frogs were kept for weeks on end at USGE in soda bottles that were sitting in a cardboard box in the facility’s washroom. No single person was assigned to their care, which meant that the animals went without food or water for weeks at a time. When it came time to ship the frogs, whose bodies are very small and delicate, some employees—including then–USGE supervisor Ari Flagle—violently shook the fragile animals out of the bottle and pulled them out by their legs—click here to watch video. Flagle is currently working with frogs, among other animals, at the Fort Worth Zoo under the supervision of Mike Doss, who testified on behalf of USGE.
While the animals at U.S. Global Exotics, Inc., have been rescued, millions of other animals in similar facilities are still suffering, and they will continue to suffer as long as people support companies such as U.S. Global Exotics by buying animals from pet stores such as PetSmart, PETCO, Petland, and others. Please share this information with everyone that you know and urge them never to buy any animals from stores and to always adopt from animal shelters and rescue groups.
Written by Karin Bennett