Following what PETA is calling the biggest animal seizure in California history, rescuers were so disturbed by what they saw that they needed crisis counseling. A warehouse near Los Angeles was full of some 20,000 rats, snakes, and other reptiles who faced long-term mistreatment; many were dead and maggot-ridden, and the rest had to be euthanized, the Press-Enterprise reports. Owner Mitchell Behm and former manager David Delgado of Global Captive Breeders, a wholesale animal distributor, were each charged Friday with 106 counts of animal cruelty; Delgado faces an additional 11 counts of torturing or cruelly killing rodents.
The smell of disease, urine, and feces overwhelmed the rescue team when they entered the exotic-animal distributor in December, the AP reports. Cleanup efforts cost the city of Lake Elsinore some $94,000. Animal rights groups, including PETA, had been investigating the company; PETA used an undercover informant who shot video of employees. Investigators and activists reported shocking cruelty:
- Animals were starved and dehydrated, and "some were literally eating each other alive";
- Workers fired BB guns at animals;
- Video shows employees swinging a rat by its tail;
- Animals were slammed into objects and thrown in trash cans;
- Snakes were transported in deli cups.
The company, which was opened in 2009, had a carbon dioxide chamber for euthanizing animals, but they were "repeatedly killed ... in a very cruel, violent manner" anyway, an animal control officer wrote. PETA
has disturbing photos and video. (After reading this, you'll likely need a happier animal story; here you go