More than 27,000 animals, including over 730 hedgehogs, have been seized from exotic pet dealer in Arlington, Texas. The company, US Global Exotics, was raided following a seven month undercover investigation by the animal rights organisation, PETA.
In what is thought to be the largest seizure of animals in the US, the range of species found is staggering: 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.
Many of these animals have been collected from the wild and transported to the dealer. The undercover recordings on the PETA website show that US Global Exotics was a company that appeared not to care about the welfare of the animals. There are some very grisly and gruesome images, so be warned before looking at the video.
Friends of mine, who I met at the Rocky Mountain Hedgehog Show while researching my book, have been helping to clear up the mess by taking the hedgehogs into care. But now the Hedgehog Welfare Society needs help and money so they can re-home the hedgehogs.
And this is where I get annoyed about the whole exotic pet industry. The hedgehog pet keepers I met were wonderful and kind if, to be honest, a little eccentric. They love their hedgehogs, they care for them without fault. But their wonderful care helps perpetuate the exotic pet industry. They encourage people to think that it is okay to have these animals as pets and this means that other people, less well-equipped to be nurturing (or simply downright mean and stupid), think it is okay to have an exotic animal as a companion.
I don’t know what the answer is, but while there is big money to be made from the exotic pet trade, there are always going to be people, like US Global Exotics, who will take advantage of lax enforcement of animal welfare legislation to try and squeeze extra profit from the bodies of these animals.
And if it were not for the intrepid investigator, none of this would have made the news – and the animals would continue to be abused. So all praise to the brave and wonderful undercover stars – who have to keep their light well and truly hidden. And if you are ever tempted to buy an exotic pet – try and find out what it went through before it got to you before making a decision.