New Report Shows Routine Illness, Injury, and Death in the ‘Pet’ Trade

Veterinary Experts Use PETA Investigation of International Exotic-Animal Supplier to Explore Industry’s Cruelty to Animals, Health Risk to Public

For Immediate Release:
June 5, 2014

Sophia Charchuk 202-483-7382

Arlington, Texas

A group of veterinary and wildlife experts have published a new study in the 2014 issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science condemning the shocking mortality rate, cruelty to animals, and disease risk to the public that are considered “standard” by the exotic-pet industry.

The study includes details and graphic photographs (available here) of the thousands of animals whom PETA investigators found sick, dead, and dying at the now-defunct Texas-based exotic-animal supplier U.S. Global Exotics (USGE), which the authors use as a case study of a multimillion-dollar industry in which wild-caught animals are packed into shipping crates and sold at pet store chains such as PetSmart and Petco.

The study found a 72 percent mortality rate—consistent with industrywide reports—at USGE, where 500 animals died every day during normal operations. Reasons cited for the animals’ poor condition include inhumane handling, stress and trauma from severe crowding, lack of adequate food and water, and lack of medical attention and treatment—all standard in the industry. Photographs reveal starving snakes put into a barren bin, prairie dogs packed on top of one another in a barrel, frogs crowded into soft-drink bottles, dead snakes placed in a freezer, and cannibalized, dead animals heaped on the floor.

“The high mortality rates that the exotic-pet industry accepts as ‘standard’ are horrifying to the public and to law enforcement—and that’s why U.S. Global Exotics was shut down,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “The routine illness, suffering, and death in the pet trade are exactly why PETA urges families never to buy any animal from a pet store.”

Although USGE housed a variety of species from around the world, biosecurity and basic hygiene procedures were non-existent. Like most exotic-pet suppliers, USGE had no protocol to keep salmonella bacteria and other pathogens from spreading from captive reptiles and amphibians to humans, agricultural animals, and wildlife. The exotic-pet industry is increasingly cited as a source of infections, leading some authors to describe the industry as a “Trojan horse.”

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