The Little Rock Zoo

.The Little Rock Zoo needs to step up and care for the animals better! Please read the several artciles here with deaths, sickness and a bald chimp!

Friday, January 1, 2010

US Global Exotics Who Warehoused More Than 26,000 Animals (Cronic Neglect) Goes To Court


ARLINGTON — An unusual municipal court animal-custody hearing ended Thursday with attorneys trading harsh words in closing arguments.

Arlington was "suckered" by "a radical interest group," said Lance Evans, attorney for the owners of U.S. Global Exotics.

Not so, an attorney for the city said: A north Arlington warehouse where more than 26,000 animals were seized was a "death camp."

Evans said PETA fabricated reports of animal cruelty at the business as part of its mission to shut down the entire exotic-pet industry.

The PETA investigator, Howard Goldman, testified early in the hearing that animals were kept in cramped dirty cages and often went weeks without food or clean water.

Goldman said sick or injured animals were denied care and left to die or were killed by being placed in a freezer.

Trading allegations

Evans, an attorney for company owners Jasen and Vanessa Shaw, called Goldman’s accusations "ludicrous."

The Shaws had nothing to gain financially by killing the animals they were trying to sell to pet stores, zoos and other animal distributors, Evans said.

It was apparent, Evans said, that Goldman was so busy secretly taking photos and videos that he neglected the duties the Shaws had hired him to handle.

"The city of Arlington was duped, was suckered into this case by a radical special-interest group," Evans said. "What PETA is trying to do through the city is get a ruling that per se an entire industry is illegal because the industry cannot operate without cruelty to animals."

Linda Frank, an attorney for Arlington, said the city was focused only on stopping animal cruelty at U.S. Global Exotics, not on shutting down the industry.

She described the Oakmead Drive business as a "death camp" where animals crushed or ate one another because of overcrowding or died a slow death from untreated illness or neglect.

"These owners, on their watch, allowed this cruel treatment to occur," Frank said. "It was not possible for the city to turn their back, to turn a blind eye, to merely walk away and leave this facility as it existed at the time this warrant was requested."

Frank said the city did not base the seizure only on PETA’s documents.

City employees inspected the facility Dec. 9 after a U.S. Fish and Wildlife agent reported possible inhumane conditions there.

The federal agency is apparently investigating the accuracy of health certificates provided for exported animals and has seized many of the company’s records, Evans said.

The Shaws, who have been in New Zealand on vacation, did not attend the hearing and have not been available for comment.

Thousands died

During the raid, described by officials as the largest of its kind in the country, workers recovered more than 600 animal carcasses, including more than 200 iguanas that had been left in shipping crates for about two weeks with no food or water.

Evans argued that many of the deaths could have been caused by conditions the animals had before being caught in the wild and shipped to U.S. Global.

He said he was alarmed to learn Thursday that nearly 4,000 of the company’s animals have died in city custody.

According to records provided to Smith by the city, 3,627 reptiles and 293 small mammals have died since the raid.

The animals are being cared for at an undisclosed location by workers with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other animal organizations.

"I want an investigation. I believe the seize was more dangerous than any alleged conditions they have been in," Evans said. "I believe the conduct of the city and PETA in the seizure of these animals have endangered their health."

Experts testifying on behalf of the city have attributed the animals deaths to the effects of chronic neglect at U.S. Global, not being removed from the building on a cold day.

James Bias, president of the SPCA of Texas, said most of the animals are now thriving with food, water and proper climate-controlled housing but many were too ill to be saved. He said hundreds of animals are receiving daily vet care for ailments and he expects the death toll will continue rising.

When you're dealing with reptiles and small mammals in that quantity, it would not be surprising to see a potential mortality rate close to 50 percent when the dust settles, he said. It would have been much higher if the animals were left in that facility.

PETA has pledged $200,000 for the care of the animals, which included providing transportation and lodging for animal experts that were brought in from around the world to assess the health of the animals.

Daphna Nachminovitch, a vice president of cruelty investigations with PETA, said Goldman spent months documenting systemic neglect, including being repeatedly ignored when he approached the Shaws with requests for food or medical care he said was necessary for the animals.

About 27,000 animal languished at U.S. Global Exotics for days, weeks, months and years without the very basic things they needed to survive, not to mention thrive, she said. They were basically treated like inanimate objects.

The owners of U.S. Global Exotics are trying to regain custody of more than 26,000 animals that were removed by Arlington workers Dec. 15 after an undercover investigator for PETA turned over photos, videos and other documents taken during his seven months of employment there.

The administrative hearing before Municipal Judge Michael Smith lasted seven days. Smith said he could determine custody as soon as Monday.


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