More than 27,000 animals taken in a raid from U.S. Global Exotics, an Internet-based animal business, were being cruelly treated and should not be returned to their owners, a Texas judge ruled on Tuesday.
Arlington Municipal Judge Michael Smith found that owners Jasen and Vanessa Shaw did not provide adequate care for the hundreds of exotic species housed at their north Arlington export business, resulting in unnecessary injury, illness or death of animals. After a seven-day custody hearing, which included expert testimony and hundreds of photographs and video footage of the animals’ living conditions, Smith determined that the animals were inhumanely confined in cramped and dirty cages and denied necessary food, water and veterinary care.
"Evidence was received which indicated that this facility was operated in accordance with industry standards of the exotic animal trade," Smith wrote. "While this may be true, this court is not free to substitute those standards for the standards set by Texas statutes."
Arlington has not incurred expenses for the animals’ care and did not seek a financial judgment against U.S. Global or the Shaws. SPCA of Texas officials say they are spending $8,000 to $10,000 a day for the animals and would appreciate donations, spokeswoman Maura Davies said. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has reportedly pledged at least $200,000.
If Arlington retains custody after all appeals are exhausted, the city will transfer ownership to the SPCA of Texas, which has been caring for the animals since the Dec. 15 raid. Most of the animals are wild-caught reptiles.
Although U.S. Global’s animal inventory has been seized, the city did not seek a ruling to stop the business from operating. It is unclear whether the Internet-based business, which imported and exported exotic animals primarily for pet stores, zoos and other animal distributors, will reopen.
The court did not find conclusive evidence of cruel treatment in the deaths of 600 animals whose carcasses were found during the raid, nor did it support U.S. Global Exotic’s attorney’s view that the city was responsible for the deaths of 4,000 more that died in city custody. City and animal welfare officials said the animals were too sick to be saved.
Read the full story at star-telegram.com.