People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is boasting about the role of animal activists in uncovering cruel conditions at a Rancho Santa Margarita exotic pet company's Lake Elsinore breeding facility, where a city inspection ended with more than 18,400 rodents and about 600 reptiles (mostly snakes) being euthanized. Decaying animal carcasses and nearly dead creatures were among the inhabitants discovered by code enforcement last week at Global Captive Breeders, according to Lake Elsinore City Manager Grant Yates.
The city issued this statement today:
After careful analysis, a team of veterinarians, reptile specialists, and animal cruelty investigations experts determined that due to the extreme neglect, cruelty and dangerously unhealthy long-term conditions, contaminated environment and the potential for further suffering, euthanasia was the safest and most humane option for the animals and the community at large.
Global Captive Breeders (GBC) owner and Orange County resident Mitch Behm voluntarily turned the animals over so they could be put down, according to city officials, who add no arrests have been made but the animal cruelty and neglect investigation continues.
The city had been tipped off about the conditions by PETA, which along with other animal advocates had been investigating GBC for two months. Veterinary experts from PETA, Animal Friends of the Valleys, the Marin Humane Society, the Colorado Reptile Humane Society and elsewhere first entered the 6,100-square-foot facility on Dec. 12 and found, according to a PETA statement, "thousands of suffering, dying, dead and decomposing animals."
Pictures posted on peta.org tell the story; we've included but a few:
The release continues: "An overwhelming stench of death, decay and ammonia burned first responders' lungs and eyes as they found animal carcasses teeming with maggots, young rats confined by the hundreds to plastic containers without food or water, and mother rats confined with their newborn babies to drawers so small that the adults could not stand upright. Animals had drowned, and rats' bodies floated in flooded bins. Snakes and rats were also loose in the warehouse."
Rodents were raised at the facility to feed to the snakes.
"By far, this is the most severe and large-scale single facility forcing animals to live in vile and horrific conditions that I have experienced in my nearly 30 years as an animal cruelty investigator," Captain Cindy Machado, the Marin Humane Society animal services director who helped lead the investigative team, says in the PETA statement. "We found evidence of animals drowning; dying in enclosures; rotting and decaying in cages; living for days without water; deprived of simple, basic care; and living in high levels of contaminated air--by far exceeding the level of suffering we have ever encountered."
The discovery drew the attention of PETA's national president, Ingrid E. Newkirk, who remarked, "GCB was a reeking hellhole for the rats, snakes, and other animals who were left to starve, drown, and die among the rotting corpses of other animals. The individuals responsible for this staggering cruelty must be prosecuted and banned from laying their hands on another animal."
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According to her organization, PETA first encountered Behm in the mid-'80s, when as a college student he videotaped himself throwing rats, mice and rabbits into a bathtub with ferrets that attacked and killed them. Behm, who could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had expired by the time law enforcement received the video, is said by PETA to have admitted conducting unapproved "experiments" in part for his own "enjoyment."