Feds Find Dead Hamsters in Filthy Cages; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
May 18, 2022

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Ionia, Mich. – PETA has just obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, available here, revealing that hamsters were left to die and rot in filth at a local animal dealer’s facility. So today, the group fired off a letter to Ionia County Prosecuting Attorney Kyle B. Butler asking him to investigate and file charges against those responsible for the animals’ persistent, widespread, and fatal neglect.

A federal inspector found “petrified dead hamsters” in more than 50 enclosures at the facility. Approximately 190 cages packed with guinea pigs and other animals were “excessively full of feces and urine,” and the majority of cages housing over 1,500 hamsters contained “more feces … than bedding.” The warehouse’s operator apparently admitted that the cages hadn’t been cleaned for a month. The inspector also found that two hamsters who had been “sorted for euthanasia” had been left to die slowly instead.

“If someone left dogs to languish and die in filthy cages, charges would be filed right away, and these small animals are entitled to the same protection under the law,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Dan Paden. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation into the dealer responsible for these animals’ suffering and reminds everyone to adopt animals from shelters and rescue groups rather than buying them from breeders or pet stores.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Butler follows.

May 18, 2022

The Honorable Kyle B. Butler
Ionia County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Dear Mr. Butler:

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office (and the proper law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file criminal charges as suitable against those responsible for the persistent, widespread, and fatal neglect of hamsters, guinea pigs, and others at an animal dealer operated by Shawn Zielke. PETA urges investigators to visit the facility with a veterinarian who has expertise in small exotic-mammal health and welfare so that they can identify any animals in need of care and opine on the conditions of and for the animals there.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff documented neglect at the facility in the attached reports. On January 19, a federal inspector found “petrified dead hamsters” in more than 50 enclosures at the facility. Approximately 190 cages housing hamsters and guinea pigs were “excessively full of feces and urine,” and the majority of cages—housing more than 1,500 hamsters in total—contained “more feces … than bedding.” “Even through the surgical mask worn for inspection the odor of ammonia and decaying animals [was] overwhelming,” the USDA agent wrote.

On April 12, the inspector returned to the property and found the remains of two hamsters who had been “sorted for euthanasia” but were left to die slowly instead. The same day, the federal agent found six degus “unable to move about [an] enclosure without walking through” a “large accumulation of feces.” Approximately 30 hamsters were crammed in a cage, where each had less than 6 square inches of space.

This neglect appears to violate Michigan’s anti-cruelty statutes, MCL § 750.50 and § 750.50b. The USDA’s action—which is clearly insufficient—renders no aid or relief whatsoever to animals on site, carries no criminal or civil penalties, and doesn’t preempt criminal liability under state law for acts of cruelty to animals. If you’d like to learn more about the USDA’s findings, please see the contact information for the office in Riverdale, Maryland, here. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please let us know if we can assist you.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

Cruelty Investigations Department

For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

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