For Immediate Release:
April 4, 2022
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382
Lavaca County, Texas – Just-released U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, available here, reveal that sugar gliders were left to die and rot in cages while others suffered from painful ailments—even the loss of an eye—and were shaking, thin, soaking wet, ill, and confined to cages filled with their own waste and infested with cockroaches and worms at a local pet-trade breeding mill. So this morning, PETA fired off a letter to Lavaca County Attorney Kyle A. Denney asking him to investigate and file applicable criminal charges against those responsible for causing “unjustified or unwarranted pain or suffering” to animals as prohibited by state law. The mill’s owners, Franklin and Wilma Stary, apparently employ only two people to tend to up to 5,000 sugar gliders kept caged on-site.
“If someone caused thousands of dogs to languish in filthy, infested cages, charges would be filed right away, and under the law, all animals, including sugar gliders, deserve the same protection,” says PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. “Their suffering is exactly why PETA urges the public to adopt, not buy from breeders or pet stores—and why we’re calling for a criminal investigation into the egregious neglect of these sensitive animals.”
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, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Denney follows.
April 4, 2022
The Honorable Kyle A. Denney
Lavaca County Attorney’s Office
Dear Mr. Denney:
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 apparently fatal neglect of animals at a sugar glider breeding mill operated by Franklin and Wilma Stary. PETA urges investigators to visit the facility with a veterinarian who has expertise in sugar glider 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 February 9, a federal inspector found the remains of approximately 10 animals “in varying stages of advanced decomposition” at the site. The agent observed that there were accumulated feces in “most cages”—which confined 4,925 animals—and that rodents were feeding on the waste. “The overall smell of waste throughout the enclosed facility … was very pungent and overwhelming,” according to the report. Worms and mice “too numerous to count” and an incalculable number of roaches were in and under cages.
On February 14, the inspector and a federal veterinarian found five animals with severe lesions on their eyes—and even missing eyes—who had been deprived of veterinary care. Again, the agents noted an “extremely pungent and overwhelming” odor of waste, which was on the floors of most cages. On February 24, 10 more animals were found denied care for injured and/or diseased eyes, being “visibly shaking” and wet, being so “thin” that their hips protruded under the skin and fur, and other conditions. Yet again, insects, worms, and mice “too numerous to count” were seen in cages housing sugar gliders. A dead mouse seen on February 9 remained untouched and was “skeletonized.”
This neglect appears to violate Texas’ prohibition against cruelty to nonlivestock animals, Texas Penal Code § 42.092. 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.
Vice President of Evidence Analysis