SPCA dealing with real-life 'animal house'



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Posted on January 29, 2010 at 7:17 PM

Updated Sunday, Jan 31 at 6:18 PM

Exotic animals seized

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DALLAS — Was a record-setting animal seizure legal, or should more than 20,000 exotic creatures be returned to the business from which they were taken?  

An Arlington municipal judge ruled the animals were treated cruelly at U.S Global Exotics in Arlington, and ordered the SPCA to care for them until they can be distributed to safe, new homes.  

The business owners appealed, and a county court judge now has until midnight Saturday to make her decision. 

Meanwhile, a Dallas warehouse has turned into a real "animal house."

Veterinarian Pamela Ashley has spent countless hours trying to keep the U.S. Global Exotics inventory healthy.  We found her treating a hedgehog nicknamed One-Eyed Jack. 

But he's got a more prickly problem than eyesight.   Dr. Ashley gave him a shot of antibiotics for a respiratory infection, then squirted him with nose drops. 

"That's just saline nasal drops, because he can't blow his nose," she explained. "It just drains his nose."

Ashley doesn't want any bugs spreading through this animal population, unless they're the kind frogs like to eat. 

The SPCA is struggling to care for them as it is.

"This case has gone on longer than any other seizure case we've ever dealt with," said SPCA of Texas President James Bias.

The animals were seized in mid-December.  Bias thought the cruelty case would be settled by now, so the turtles, snakes, iguanas and wallabies could be transferred to zoos, refuges and animal adoption agencies.

Bias says the SPCA has burned through $300,000 caring for the animals.  A dozen volunteers from Houston, Austin and Bryan College Station just arrived to take the pressure off, and more replacements are on the way.

The good news, says Bias, is that few animals are dying now.

"On any given day we have 20 or 30 out of thousands expire," he said.

On the flip side, some populations are growing, especially hedgehogs.   There have been about 60 births so far.  Workers separated males and females, but the hedgehog stork is expected to remain busy for a while.    

 "We're trying to keep Noah's Ark from growing right now," Bias quipped.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com