ARLINGTON — It's being called the biggest animal seizure of its kind in the country. Authorities moved in to take custody of a many as 20,000 creatures from an exotic pet distributor Tuesday morning.
Arlington Animal Services served a civil seizure warrant on U.S. Global Exotics, a multi-million dollar business that acquires these creatures from all around the world — then sells them for premium prices.
The collection includes snakes, wallabys, tarantulas, turtles and hedgehogs.
"We're finding huge amounts of dead animals in with the living ones," said Jay Sabatucci of Arlington Animal Services. "We're finding turtles who are basically in a toxic soup of water and other dead turtles."
The Humane Society of North Texas and the SPCA of Texas are among the organizations helping city officials try to collect and catalog the menagerie from the U.S. Global Exotics facility in the 1000 block of Oakmead Drive. Veterinarians from around the country and even one from Great Britain were flown in to provide their expertise into evaluation and treatment of the more exotic animals.
"We have consulted with some experts," Sabatucci said. "Some of the methods of keeping the animals are not within guidelines. There are animals in there literally starving to death, not being fed. There are animals in conditions where the environment is either too cold or too warm for them."
U.S. Global Exotics will likely be shut down all day Tuesday as the seizure continues. No criminal charges have been filed against the firm, which — according to its Web site — has been importing and exporting exotic animals for 11 years.
The Web site claims that U.S. Global Exotics is licensed by U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
"I'm a dog man myself, so it's hard for me to understand how someone would like something exotic like a wallaby or a tree sloth," Sabatucci said. "But there are people who wish to have these types of animals, and they will pay top dollar to have them."
Officials said the seized animals would first be removed to an undisclosed location to evaluate their conditions. If a court awards the animals to the city, the survivors will be shipped to places where they will be properly cared for.