Thousands of exotic animals found overcrowded, underfed in Arlington



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Posted on December 16, 2009 at 1:01 AM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 16 at 11:55 AM

ARLINGTON - The SPCA of Texas, city of Arlington and the Humane Society of North Texas will work through midnight Wednesday gathering animals in what's believed to be the largest exotic animal seizure in the country.

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, investigators have collected 22,000 exotic animals like lizards, snakes, chinchillas and turtles from U.S. Global Exotics. In the end, rescuers estimate they will seize 25,000 to 30,000 animals, said James Bias, president of the SPCA of Texas.

The animals were underfed and overcrowded. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of carcasses were found, too.

Bias said he has already reached out to zoos across the country to see if any would be interested in acquiring the animals providing a judge grants permanent custody to the SPCA of Texas or other rescue groups.

Arlington wouldn't reveal what led investigators to the location in a business park off Highway 360 near Avenue J. They served a civil warrant for cruelty to animals on the owners at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

U.S. Global Exotics buys and sells exotic animals around the world.

Only six to eight workers are employed to take care of the thousands of animals, said Chris Castoe, who identified himself as an employee who has been working at the business over the last eight months.

Rescuers said some even cannibalized each other.

Neighboring business said some animals, including snakes, escaped and slithered next door over the three years the facility was open.

Hundreds of dead turtles were found, along with 200 to 400 dead iguanas that were boxed up but never shipped, Bias said.

Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., the city will ask a judge to give permanent custody of the animals to the SPCA and the Humane Society.

The city has up to two years to decide if it wants to prosecute the owners criminally.