Starving snakes, dead rodents and hundreds of reptiles packed in shipping crates were discovered Tuesday when animal welfare groups in Texas raided an exotic animal delivery company, officials said.
Dozens of people with the city of Arlington, SPCA of Texas and the Humane Society of North Texas took inventory of the animals _ estimated at 20,000 _ and removed them from U.S. Global Exotics. The Arlington-based company, which advertises that it delivers exotic animals worldwide, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment, and its Web site was taken down Tuesday afternoon.
"Sometimes animals die, but the amount of animals dead far exceeded what you would normally see at any company like this," said Jay Sabatucci, manager of animal services with the city of Arlington. "Animals were not fed, not fed properly, overcrowded and attacking each other. Some were in an environment not proper for them, such as snakes in a 72-degree room with a lamp over them, which is not enough heat and could cause them to die."
The company's warehouse held mostly reptiles and rodents and also spiders, sloths and hedgehogs, but it was unclear how many were dead, said Maura Davies, a spokeswoman with the SPCA of Texas. Veterinarians were on hand to treat the most severely malnourished animals, she said.
Hundreds of rodents were crammed in small containers covered with wire, and many had killed and eaten each other, Davies said. Other animals were kept in feeding troughs, and there were numerous stacked shipping containers still holding turtles and other reptiles that had been sent to the company, Davies said. About 200 iguanas were in one small room, she said.
A hearing will be held within 10 days to determine if the animals will be returned to the company or stay in the care of the animal welfare groups, Sabatucci said. The city is considering filing criminal charges against the owner, he said.
The city was tipped off recently by federal officials who had executed a warrant for another violation and reported concerns about the animals' conditions, Sabatucci said.