Action Centre

Behind the Scenes in the Pet Trade: A PETA US Undercover Investigation

UPDATE: Read our blog for the latest information.

For seven months, a PETA US investigator went undercover at a massive international animal wholesale warehouse in Arlington, Texas, called US Global Exotics (USGE), which is one of the  top dealers in animals sold in pet shops. USGE ships mammals, reptiles, amphibians, arachnids and other species all over the world, including to UK-based companies Coast to Coast Exotics, Peregrine Livefoods Ltd and PM Aquatic Imports. From there, they no doubt end up in pet shops in numerous towns.

USGE confined, at any given time, as many as 60,000 animals (a conservative estimate), with a staff of only three or four people to care for them. Tens of thousands of animals—including hamsters and gerbils, hedgehogs, chinchillas, ferrets, snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises, frogs and other exotic animals, such as wallabies, sloths, anteaters and kinkajous—suffered terribly. Many died slowly and painfully as a result of continuous, cruel confinement to severely crowded and filthy enclosures and a lack of care. They were denied not just all that they would naturally have the opportunity to do in the wild but also the fulfilment of their most basic needs: food, water, veterinary care and a peaceful end to their misery.

Primates and other mammals were locked inside barren bins, cages and dark, dungeon-like metal troughs, for weeks, even for months, leading to desperate behaviour like incessant, crazed pacing, "back flips" and other repetitive, stereotypical behaviour; injuring themselves in frantic clawing at cage openings in an attempt to escape; being torn apart as they fought with others for space and food; anorexia and more. Hundreds of injured, dying squirrels, lizards and snakes were frozen alive in USGE's chest freezer, some taking a long time to die.

USGE is operated by New Zealanders Jasen and Vanessa Shaw. The couple acts as USGE's president and vice president. Over the course of PETA US' investigation, the Shaws shrugged off, ignored or simply forgot about the investigator's dozens of requests for food and basic care for animals – some gravely ill and dying. When an outbreak of vesicular disease was causing snakes to suffer and die daily, Vanessa Shaw called a veterinarian's recommended treatment for the animals "f***ing ludicrous" because of the time and medicine that the treatment would have required, which was minimal. The Shaws routinely ordered that live animals, including a squirrel whose neck had been severely lacerated and a chinchilla bleeding from a prolapsed rectum, be frozen to death.

US Global Exotics bought and sold wild-caught and captive-bred animals across America and around the world. Animals are imported from all corners of the world, including Egypt, El Salvador, Vietnam, Ghana, Indonesia, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Guyana, Suriname and New Zealand. Many animals – such as wallabies, snakes, lizards, sloths, tayras, labbas and more – are wild-caught, snatched from their wild habitats to be shipped and sold as "pets".

Animals who survived gruelling journeys from their homelands and families, or from other breeders, all the way to Texas were faced with deplorable conditions when they finally arrived at USGE, sometimes being kept for days or weeks in pillowcases, shipping boxes, or even 2-litre drink bottles – with no food or water. Those who survived the starvation, dehydration, stress, illness and injuries that are business as usual in the pet trade were sold to stores, breeders and dealers internationally, including in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Taiwan, Guatemala, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, France, China, South Korea, North Korea, Malaysia, Italy, Hungary, Thailand, Sweden, Spain, Canada and the US.

Help Stop this Awful Trade

The pet trade means suffering and death for animals. The most important step any of us can take is never to buy companion animals from breeders or suppliers. No animal is safe from the drive for profit, but those traded internationally to supply the demand for "exotics" are especially at risk. US Global Exotics supplied live animals to pet traders right here in the UK. Please immediately join us in asking the British government to prohibit the import of live animals for the pet trade and end the sale of all exotic animals as "pets".


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