The manager of a Lake Elsinore breeding facility for Rancho Santa Margarita-based Global Captive Breeders was sentenced Thursday to a jail work-release program, community service and probation, the fallout from an investigation that uncovered tens of thousands of dead or dying snakes and rodents. David Delgado, 30, of Rialto, and Global Captive Breeders' owner Mitchell Steven Behm, 55, of Coto de Caza, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges last month.
Behm and Delgado were originally charged with more than 100 felony counts of animal cruelty that could have sent them to state prison for years with convictions. Both cut deals with prosecutors.
Owner Behm pleaded guilty to a dozen misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and was sentenced last month to five years' probation and 200 hours of community service. Terms of his probation forbid him from keeping animals or being involved with animal-related businesses, and he was ordered to pay $102,000 to the city of Lake Elsinore and $88,000 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which launched the investigation that led to the case and helped with the cleanup of the breeding facility.
Under manager Delgado's deal, he'll do 180 days in the work release program, 250 hours of community service and five years' probation. He's also prohibited from owning or working with animals, although his family can keep their three dogs.
Working with someone undercover at the Global Captive Breeders facility that opened on 3rd Street in Lake Elsinore in 2009, PETA launched its probe in 2012 that produced video later posted on its website that showed horrific images, including a rat being shot by an employee, snake carcasses teeming with maggots and rodents drowning in water-filled enclosures.
Results of the investigation were forwarded to city officials, who raided the facility in December 2012 and seized more than 18,000 dead or dying snakes and rodents. Many of those clinging to life had to be euthanized.
Behm was already known to PETA before the investigation. He'd been exposed in the mid-'80s for videotaping himself throwing rats, mice and rabbits into a bathtub with ferrets that attacked and killed them. Behm was accused by PETA of having admitted to conducting unapproved "experiments" in part for his own "enjoyment," but no prosecution came about because the statute of limitations had expired by the time law enforcement received the video.
PETA released this statement today from its Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch:
"PETA's investigation of Global Captive Breeders revealed animals left to die in cramped, filthy bins, where they slowly starved or drowned. Not only did former manager David Delgado fail to stop this horrific neglect–typical of suppliers to the pet trade industry–he was also caught freezing live animals, shooting rats with a BB gun, slamming rats into hard surfaces, and committing other abuses.
"A five-year prohibition on acquiring animals is a critical step in making sure that other living beings don't suffer at Delgado's hands. Although his time behind bars won't hold a candle to the misery that he inflicted on thousands of animals, Delgado's incarceration shows that the shocking cruelty of the reptile and small-animal trade will not be tolerated."