For more than seven months, a PETA investigator worked undercover inside U.S. Global Exotics (USGE), a major player in the pet trade. USGE buys and sells hundreds of thousands of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids from all around the world, many of whom are eventually sold to large pet store chains PETCO and PetSmart—stores that we have campaigned against and even won major concessions from over the years.
The extent of the cruelty and neglect that our investigator documented in this massive and filthy animal warehouse was mind-boggling. Tens of thousands of animals— including ring-tailed lemurs, wallabies, sloths, hedgehogs, hamsters, guinea pigs, prairie dogs, squirrels, ferrets, snakes, turtles, and tortoises—were dumped into severely crowded and filthy boxes, bins, troughs, and even soda bottles and left there, often without food and water, basic care, or minimal veterinary attention for their life-threatening injuries. The following are a handful of examples that we documented of the daily, systemic mistreatment of animals:
Scared hamsters were crammed by the thousands into litter pans, unable to move for fear of being attacked by other distressed hamsters. These cruel conditions resulted in rampant cannibalism, horrific wounds and infections, and a daily death toll. Faulty watering-system nozzles routinely flooded bins, drowning the animals trapped inside.
Delicate green tree frogs were kept inside plastic soda bottles. Denied food and water, the frogs sometimes remained inside these bottles for weeks at a time until they were either sold or died—whichever came first.
A young hedgehog who was one of hundreds of little “pocket pets” at the facility was denied basic medical attention after his front leg was nearly severed. Many animals—including a spotted squirrel whose neck was torn in half —were dumped into a chest freezer to die slowly.
More than 12,000 baby turtles languished in cardboard boxes for weeks in the facility’s warehouse and were deprived of food, water, space, humidity, heat, and ventilation. In just one day, 657 turtles were recorded in the facility’s “daily dead log.”
This is only a glimpse of what PETA’s investigator witnessed during his months inside this hellish animal warehouse. While we can’t reveal every detail of this important investigation as legal proceedings unfold, you can see many of our findings in our recent blog post.
Shortly before the new year, local authorities, accompanied by animal protection organizations and experts brought in by PETA, served a civil seizure warrant to take into protective custody the more than 26,000 animals housed by USGE at that time. Officials found hundreds of dead and dying animals—including nearly 300 barely alive, starved, and dehydrated iguanas inside shipping bags and crates—lying amid the decaying, even liquefied remains of others.
This was the largest cruelty-related seizure of animals ever conducted. It has already affected the global pet trade, and with more hard work, it could change the industry forever.
We continue to work to ensure that those responsible for the suffering of these animals are held accountable. But for the tens of thousands of animals who have survived the terrible stress of being captured in the wild, thrown into containers too small to stretch or move in, and neglected at USGE, a new struggle is just beginning.
The work that still needs to be done to give these rescued animals the basic care that has long been denied them is extensive and costly. In the short time since the seizure, we’ve already seen more than $61,000 in food, housing, and transportation costs. We estimate conservatively that it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide these animals with the care and permanent placement that they need.
How You Can Help Right Now
We need every donation possible from donors like you in order to fund the care of the animals rescued from U.S. Global Exotics and continue with this case and others like it. PETA’s groundbreaking investigation helped to free these animals from intense physical and mental suffering. Now it falls to each of us to see that the work continues.
By making as generous a renewal gift as you can right now, you’ll help us meet the needs of the tens of thousands of newly rescued animals and keep PETA’s investigation into this trade going strong—and thanks to the generosity of a kind PETA donor, your support for these animals will be doubled, up to a total of $50,000.
For the tens of thousands of animals we’ve rescued from USGE, thank you.
Ingrid E. Newkirk, president