The Dec. 15 seizure of 27,000 animals from U.S. Global Exotics in Arlington — and the seven days of municipal court testimony as a judge decided whether the company or its owners could regain custody of them — must have startled many people who were not yet aware of the exotic animal trade.
The thought of 27,000 animals in one private building is shocking enough.
The episode also showed a well-tuned, thoughtful and balanced court process in Arlington as the city first took control of the animals after receiving evidence of mistreatment and then carefully and extensively followed state law to protect the owners’ rights. Municipal Judge Michael Smith ruled Tuesday that there was indeed ample — even abundant — cause to terminate those rights and turn the animals over to the city for proper care.
Conditions at U.S. Global Exotics, as described in Smith's ruling, were deplorable:
"The facility was seriously understaffed." Only three workers present at the time of the seizure were dedicated exclusively to caring for the thousands of mostly "wild-caught" reptiles, rare mammals, amphibians and spiders. Experts testified that the number should have been 20 to 40.
"All of the animals were subjected to poor air quality . . . a constant stench of death . . . [and] a strong ammonia odor resulting from urine."
"Many of the animals were housed in overcrowded conditions, including many types of animals that are solitary by nature and should not be forced into close proximity even with others from their own species."
To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.