Details of one of the largest exotic pet seizures in US history have been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science.

A major international wholesaler, US Global Exotics (USGE), was investigated by veterinarians, biologists and other exotic animal experts alongside the Texas state authorities.

Around 3,500 dead and dying animals, or 12% of the stock, were discarded weekly at the facility, meaning that during each stock turnover period of six weeks, around 72% of animals were destroyed.

USGE also supplied animals for the European trade, including the UK.

Pictures obtained from the investigation show the filthy and overcrowded conditions in which animals were kept and the pitiful state of the animals themselves.

Animals were found suffering, dying or dead due to cold, starvation, dehydration, infections and parasite infestations, as well as being crushed or cannibalised – many had to be euthanised.

In total, more than 26,400 animals (mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates) were seized, and on inspection 80% of the animals were found to be sick, injured or dead.

UK-based biologist and medical scientist Clifford Warwick, who assisted with the seizure and co-wrote the report, said: “This animal dealer had operated for years with apparent impunity, largely because an amiable public facade masked the grand and sustained scale of suffering, disease and death behind the scenes.

“Unfortunately, as someone who has investigated the exotic pet trade for three decades, the conditions identified in this report are in my experience common throughout suppliers and retailers of all sizes.”

The seizure came about as a result of a seven-month undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Director of the UK-based Animal Protection Agency, Elaine Toland said: “Thanks to PETA’s superb investigative work, the lid has well and truly been lifted on the wholesale supply of animals for the exotic pet trade, and thanks to the investigators involved, this is now on record in the scientific literature.

“With an ‘industry standard’ this poor, enforcement authorities in the UK and elsewhere need to take a much closer look at all importers, breeders, wholesalers and retailers in the pet trade pipeline.

The article in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare and Science can be accessed: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10888705.2014.918511

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