Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters

 

Dealer Loses Custody of 'Stock' Because of Cruel Treatment of Animals 

January 5, 2010 Karin Bennett, PETA 

We've just received word that Arlington (Texas) Municipal Judge Michael Smith has divested Jasen and Vanessa Shaw—owners and operators of animal warehouse U.S. Global Exotics, Inc. (USGE)—of the more than 26,000 mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and arachnids who were seized from USGE on December 15. U.S. Global Exotics, Inc., is a major player in the pet trade. For years, the company has imported and exported hundreds of thousands of animals every year for eventual sale at major pet stores and pet store chains all over the world, including at U.S.-based PETCO and PetSmart.  

A PETA undercover investigator spent seven months working at U.S. Global Exotics and documented horrifically cruel conditions for animals. On December 15, Arlington officials and humane agents rescued more than 26,000 animals, including wallabies, sloths, ringtail lemurs, kinkajous, coatimundis, agoutis, hedgehogs, chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, flying squirrels, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, ferrets, snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, spiders, crabs, and scorpions from this facility. This seizure is believed to be the largest animal confiscation in history.  

Judge Smith's decision to award custody of the animals to the city of Arlington comes on the heels of a seven-day hearing during which lawyers for the exotic-animal dealer tried every trick in the book to downplay Jasen and Vanessa Shaw's failure to provide animals in their care with basic, minimal necessities such as food, water, and adequate housing. However, the evidence that our investigator meticulously documented while inside U.S. Global Exotics' facility—as well as the evidence gathered on the day of the seizure—could not be refuted. Here is some of what we found:  

A staff of only three or four people was tasked with providing care for tens of thousands of animals. Animals suffered greatly from cruel confinement in severely crowded and filthy containers, including soda bottles and milk jugs, litter pans, cattle-feeding troughs, and barren wire cages. Hundreds of animals were denied basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. 

Hundreds of sick, injured, and dying animals were put in a chest freezer to die. Some of them, including a squirrel whose neck had been severely lacerated and a chinchilla who was bleeding from a prolapsed rectum, survived for hours before succumbing.  

Countless wild-caught animals were forced to make grueling journeys from their native habitats. They were subjected to deplorable, substandard conditions and care and were kept for days or weeks in pillowcases, shipping boxes, or soda bottles without food or water or even proper heat and humidity.  

Exotic animals—some of whom were members of endangered species—were continually kept inside barren bins, wire bird cages, and dungeon-like metal troughs, sometimes for months or years. Many developed abnormal, stress-induced neurotic behaviors such as incessant pacing, frantic clawing, and fighting for space and food. 

Hundreds of iguanas and other lizards who were never unpacked upon arrival perished inside mesh bags and "shipping cups"—and at least 12,000 turtles remained boxed up for weeks in the facility's warehouse, deprived of food, water, light, and adequate ventilation. In one day, 657 turtles were recorded on the facility's dead list. 

On the day of the seizure, the decomposing, liquefying remains of more than 200 iguanas were extracted from bags containing almost as many live iguanas, all of whom had been crammed into wooden crates at USGE's frigid warehouse and left without food or water for nearly two weeks in preparation for a shipment to Egypt.  

Green tree frogs were kept for weeks on end at USGE in soda bottles that were sitting in a cardboard box in the facility's washroom. No single person was assigned to their care, which meant that the animals went without food or water for weeks at a time. When it came time to ship the frogs, whose bodies are very small and delicate, some employees—including then–USGE supervisor Ari Flagle—violently shook the fragile animals out of the bottle and pulled them out by their legs—Flagle is currently working with frogs, among other animals, at the Fort Worth Zoo under the supervision of Mike Doss, who testified on behalf of USGE.  

While the animals at U.S. Global Exotics, Inc., have been rescued, millions of other animals in similar facilities are still suffering, and they will continue to suffer as long as people support companies such as U.S. Global Exotics by buying animals from pet stores such as PetSmart, PETCO, Petland, and others. Please share this information with everyone that you know and urge them never to buy any animals from stores and to always adopt from animal shelters and rescue groups.  


NEWS RELEASE

Ministry of Environment

For Immediate Release
2009ENV0016-000383
March 17, 2009

NEW RULES FOR ALIEN SPECIES PROTECT PUBLIC 

VICTORIA – New rules regulating alien species that pose the most serious threat to public safety will take effect immediately, announced Environment Minister Barry Penner.    

            “British Columbians shouldn’t have to worry about being harmed in their community by dangerous, foreign animals like tigers, pythons or alligators,” said Penner. “Protecting public safety is our number one priority and this new regulation is intended to do just that.” 

            The provincial government has identified species that are a sufficient risk to public safety to warrant regulation. These include some types of mammals, amphibians and reptiles. The new Controlled Alien Species Regulation under the Wildlife Act contains a list of species that individuals are prohibited from possessing unless the animal was in B.C. prior to March 16, 2009. The regulation also includes restrictions on possessing, breeding, transporting and releasing animals that are currently in British Columbia. 

            “The B.C. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals applauds the diligent work of the environment minister and his staff to formally recognize and address the public safety risks of possessing foreign wildlife which were previously unregulated,” said Sara Dubois, manager of Wildlife Services for the BC SPCA. “It will finally provide legal direction and ministry support to our officers who are often called upon to investigate complaints of cruelty involving dangerous foreign wildlife.”   

            Individuals who are in possession of a listed animal that was in B.C. before March 16, 2009 may be able to keep the animal until its death if they comply with a number of requirements and restrictions. They must apply for, and be granted, a permit from the Ministry of Environment between Nov. 1, 2009 and March 31, 2010. They must not breed or release the animals in question.

            All breeding of these animals will be prohibited as of April 1, 2010 unless they are in the possession of an accredited zoo, research or educational institution. Under special circumstances, a person involved in breeding one of the controlled alien species as an established and registered business may be granted a permit to breed for a defined period.

            Accredited zoos, research and educational institutions can continue to acquire, breed and possess the listed species, but they will be required to apply for, and be granted, a permit for each animal in their possession beginning Nov. 1, 2009.

            Effective immediately, the film industry will be required to apply for a permit for temporarily bringing any listed animals into B.C. and must remove those same animals from B.C. when their film shoot is completed. 

            In May 2007, Tania Dumstrey-Soos was killed by a caged tiger on a residential property in Bridge Lake, near 100 Mile House. In December 2007, a Surrey man lost his finger after being bitten by an alien, poisonous cobra. While B.C. hospitals carry anti-venom for rattlesnakes native to the province, they can’t anticipate all the different types of snakes people may import into B.C.

            Penalties for violating the new restrictions may result in one or more of the following; a maximum fine of $250,000 and/or up to two years of imprisonment, seizure of the animal and removal from the province at the owner’s expense, or seizure of the animal and transport to an accredited zoo at the owner’s expense. If removal is not possible, the animal may be euthanized.  

            The full list of controlled alien species and the requirements and restrictions under the new regulation contained in the Wildlife Act are posted on the Ministry of Environment website at www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/wildlifeactreview/cas/ 

Note: The provincial government received numerous correspondence from the public over the last few years concerning this subject, and has finally responded.  

Animal rental agencies - Will new regulations hold them to account?

19 November, 2009 Peter Fricker, Vancouver Sun

The B.C. Ministry of Environment recently published permit application requirements for the keeping of exotic animals. It's the latest phase in the establishment of new regulations restricting exotic animal ownership in B.C., which were triggered by the killing of a young woman by a captive tiger near 100 Mile House in 2007.

The permit applications require captive animal facilities to submit animal welfare and public safety plans, explaining how they intend to house and care for their animals. But the ministry has not published detailed standards so it's not clear exactly what criteria have to be met to obtain a permit.

One area of concern is the "animal rental agencies" that supply the film industry in B.C. For example, one such agency in Abbotsford, called The Fright Stuff, claims on its website that it has alligators, cobras and other venomous snakes, which are pictured and listed as available. Possession of such animals without a permit will be prohibited by the new regulations.

The Fright Stuff''s animals are reportedly kept in a basement and, until now, have never been subject to any regulation. Animal welfare advocates are skeptical that this kind of operation will meet any reasonable standards of animal care or public safety. If The Fright Stuff obtains a permit there will be serious questions about the effectiveness of the new regulations.

The same is true for a number of similar B.C businesses that make money by supplying animals for movies, television and advertising. When the cameras stop rolling these animals are put back in their cages until the next job comes along. Until now, there has been no government oversight or public scrutiny of their conditions.

Animal welfare groups are hoping that the new regulations will require the agencies to meet high standards of animal care and housing that will be strictly enforced. One fear is that the B.C. film industry will lobby on behalf of the animal suppliers to prevent that happening. If that transpires exotic animals will continue to suffer in captivity and public safety will continue to be at risk.

Here are some other animal rental agencies in B.C.:

Beyond Just Bears
Action Animals
Animal Insight
Cinemazoo 

Keeping exotic animals for fun(draising) and profit  

6 January, 2010  Peter Fricker, (VHS) for the Vancouver Sun

Just before the end of 2009, local media reported on the "plight" of a company called Cinemazoo Animal Agency Ltd., which was facing eviction from its premises in Whalley.  Cinemazoo's owner reportedly had run out of money and was unable to pay rent owed on the facility, which holds about 300 exotic animals ranging from large alligators to a 100-year-old snapping turtle. Cinemazoo made an appeal for help from the public and it was not long before sympathetic newspaper readers responded with donations, thus staving off the eviction.

But is this the worthy cause that some animal lovers might imagine?

Since 1988 Cinemazoo has been a commercial business that makes profits by renting out its animals for use in TV commercials, films, corporate events and birthday parties.  In 2007, it set up an organization called The Urban Safari Rescue Society, which is a registered charity.  You can click a button on Cinemazoo's website to make a donation and it will take you directly to the Urban Safari Rescue website. 

Meanwhile, Cinemazoo continues to rent out animals for TV, film and advertising work and use them in “educational” presentations.  Its commercial customers include Telus, Fido, McDonald's and other corporate clients who have paid to use the company's captive animals to help sell their products. Animals can be supplied to birthday parties for about $200 and schools are also charged for educational presentations.  But apparently, these revenue streams are not enough to provide Cinemazoo with enough money to pay the rent.

The Urban Safari Rescue Society's mission statement says that one of its goals is to “breed endangered species in our care, for release into their natural habitats on protected reserves or conservation parks.” Endangered species breeding is a highly regulated activity.  Professional Species Survival Plans (SSPs) are located only at reputable, accredited zoos, and use only registered breeding stock which has been verified to be healthy, physically and genetically. Rescued pets or animals from the exotic pet trade would not qualify, as their genetic history cannot be verified. This is to avoid breeding and releasing animals with genetic mutations, disease or problems from inbreeding.

Cinemazoo, with only 4000 square feet of urban space and not even enough money in reserve to pay a month's rent, seems an unlikely facility for successful endangered species breeding.

There are some serious questions here: What is the difference between Cinemazoo and its charitable arm, The Urban Safari Rescue Society?  Their activities seem to be funded by both charitable donations and commercial fees. Is charitable income (donations) being earmarked for charitable activities such as endangered species work?  Has the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) checked on how many endangered species Cinemazoo has successfully returned to the wild? 

For 22 years Cinemazoo has used animals to make money. Now that those animals are at risk, is Cinemazoo using the public's sympathy for animals to bail itself out of a financial mess? 

Situations like this can only arise because we still allow people to exploit exotic animals for money.  The B.C. Ministry of the Environment has introduced new regulations for captive exotic animal facilities that will require companies like Cinemazoo to have a permit by April 1, 2010.  How can an unstable outfit that can't even pay its rent qualify as fit to keep 300 animals safely and humanely?   The ministry should inspect Cinemazoo's operation thoroughly. 

If Cinemazoo and other animal exploitation agencies (there are several in B.C.) go out of business, what happens to the animals?  The environment ministry and BC SPCA have no facilities to keep exotic species.  Most likely a hodge-podge of zoos, pet traders and private collectors will gather round to pick through the most valuable animals, which will then be hauled off to live in a new set of cages and tanks elsewhere.  The unwanted remainder will face euthanization.

That's what happens when animals are treated as mere commodities, exploited to make profits.  Businesses that make money off animals may be successful or they may go bust, but the animals will always pay the price.

Comment: The animal trade is truly horrific.  Bottom line it’s always the innocent victims, the animals who suffer and die because of us. In 2007, Cinemazoo incorporated Urban Safari Rescue Society as its charitable arm. Local activists have been keeping an eye on the activities of USRS/Cinemazoo, and have forwarded documentation to the SPCA. We have also heard from volunteers at Cinemazoo, who have reported on inadequate care and/or dying animals.  

November 11, 2010 Cruelty investigation at Cinemazoo can only be a good thing

November 2012 Kijiji ad: “Rabbits-Guinea-Pigs-and-a-Gerbil Here at the Urban Safari Rescue Society we have run out of room... there are too many Rabbits and Guinea Pigs. There is also 1 Gerbil looking for a new home, he is a bit timid.”  Yet again, Oliver is looking to place animals due to lack of space. Chronic overcrowding, lack of finances, and hands-on help are all contributors to neglect and suffering. Victims of human dominance and exploitation.

July 2014 Rabbitats, in all its wisdom, is now renting space from USRS, located is South Surrey, to house some rabbits. USRS is holding an Open House and Barbeque on the 12th. Just terrific.

September 7, 2014 Surrey ecology centre proposal

September 24, 2014 update: Carmina Gooch wrote to Surrey officials and staff expressing opposition to Mr. Oliver’s “Ecology Centre” proposal. The response from the mayor’s office, in part, read:  As we have yet to receive any tangible information from Mr. Oliver, at this time City Staff cannot evaluate the proposal or determine its commercial/financial sustainability to comment further.

January 8, 2016 The truth behind animal businesses

Note: The status of animals as property has also severely limited the type of legal protection that we extend to nonhumans.

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Exotic Pet Owner Mauled to Death by His 650-Pound Tiger

January 12, 2010 Opposing Views Editorial Staff, To Protect and Serve Opposing Views 

A well-known activist for ownership of exotic animals was mauled to death by his own Siberian tiger. Norman Buwalda, 66, was found dead Sunday after entering the tiger's cage to feed it on his property in Ontario, Canada.

Buwalda was the chairman of the Canadian Exotic Animal Owner's Association. In 2006, he was able to successfully fight a rule in his township that banned his ownership of such animals. He was able to have his two tigers, two lions and a cougar grandfathered into the law. The only reason the township made such a rule is because one of Buwalda's animals attacked a 10-year-old boy who Buwalda let on the property to take pictures.

Nicole Balogh, a neighbor with two small children, was one of many people who had fought to remove the animals.

"We were always concerned that he was just not diligent as to the dangers or being responsible for animals of that kind," she told The Canadian Press. "You just don't take children in and flash pictures at animals."

Barry Kent MacKay, the Canadian representative of Born Free USA, an animal rights group, said his organization has been warning communities for years to toughen laws. "We warned these communities to pass these bylaws, because people can have a plethora of animals," MacKay said. "Private owners don't see the danger, they think everything is fine."

Ontario is the only Canadian province where exotic animals don't need to be licensed.

Here in the United States, laws differ from state to state. But according to the Humane Society's website:

States generally prohibit or regulate the private ownership of wild animals native to that state. In recent years, states have been enacting laws to protect nonnative species as well.

Typically, state laws list which animals are prohibited, but if the list is not comprehensive, it can create loopholes for other animals to become the next exotic pet du jour... Some localities have improved on state laws by listing the animals allowed as pets, clarifying that any other species are prohibited.

August 7, 2013  Exotic pets should fall under federal law