Why the exotic pet trade is wrong and undercover investigations are so important

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.

8 thoughts on “Why the exotic pet trade is wrong and undercover investigations are so important

  1. After reading this it was very hard for me to not volunteer to take in some hogs. We simply don’t have the proper accommodations for them right now as we have a drafty room.

    You’d be surprised actually at the lack of unwanted hogs in need of rescue, I am usually searching for them locally out of curiosity and at least on petfinder.com I can only usually find maybe 4 or 5 across the US. Usually unwanted hogs are few and far between, and are snatched up very quickly so this is a rare instance (that I must reiterate is very hard to resist).

    Still, it doesnt keep pet stores from carrying them in unfit conditions and no respectable breeder would sell their hogs to a pet store, so in come places like this one in Texas. I raged once at a store owner who had kept two in a small glass terrarium with no wheel, no shavings, and no hidey place. The poor things were scared and unsocialized. They told me that they had kept their hogs like that for years and it worked before, and that was their reasoning for not changing the way they kept them now. ugh I do hate pet stores

  2. My boyfriend has been on about getting a pet hedgehog. I thought it would be cruel, as it should be in the wild. He said its no different to me having a house rabbit. Is this right? Could you give me some info on this. I love animals and always like to know as much info as poss. Would a rabbit and hedgehog get on? Thank you for any info.

    • Is this in the UK? If so, I am concerned about an eruption of interest in pet hedgehogs here as it will lead to wild ones being taken and traded by unscrupulous dealers and also to unwanted ones being chucked out into the wild, where they will probably just starve. However, they do seem, on the basis of my experience in the US, to make undemanding pets … now whether they would get on with a rabbit …. I suggest you try having a look on the US hedgehog forums and maybe pose that question.
      Best wishes

      • Yes I’m from the uk. Not alot of people know about it here. It was my boyfriend who first made myself aware of pet hedgehogs. I think its cruel. I think with all the info I’ve given him. I think he’s, thinking twice about it. I think having to go to an exotic vet, and the money they cost. Might have put him off. If it does start up in the uk, I’ll only get one from a rescue place. I always end up with animals nobody wants. But I want them. Until then I hope it dosen’t catch on here. People are so selfish when it comes to animals. Its about time people start putting the animals first.

  3. It’s just surprising isn’t it, that people seem to think keeping an exotic pet is some sort of personal style/ identity statement. No offence to your boyfriend Kathryn, this is a general comment and not directed at your comment in any way.

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