Born to Die

Most of the thousands of rats who
were kept at GCB were what the pet trade industry refers to as
“feeder” animals―bred and sold to be fed to snakes and other captive
carnivorous reptiles kept as “pets.” Because of the facility’s chronic
failure to provide animals with even their most minimal requirements, the rats
were not just doomed to die terrifying, painful deaths inside GCB’s walls but
also born into and kept in filth and misery throughout their entire lives.

  • Rats—including
    those weakened by illness and suffering from injuries were
    routinely grabbed by the tail and slammed into metal posts, racks, tables, and
    walls when workers (including the facility’s manager) decided to kill them.
    Many didn’t die quickly―and were thrown into trash bins or into a reptile’s
    cage while still alive and convulsing. Some rats, including newborns, were
    frozen alive, despite the availability of a makeshift gas box in which the
    animals could have been killed with less suffering. Loose rats were shot with a
    BB gun, one rat was stomped on and maimed then whipped against a metal rack and
    finally killed, and several rats were bludgeoned with metal tongs and the handle
    of a BB gun.
  • Tubs used
    for housing flooded frequently, drowning countless rats and leaving hundreds of
    others to struggle to keep their heads above water as the water rose.
    Exhausted, shivering, and terrified, many mother rats watched helplessly as
    their newborns drowned.
  • Hundreds
    of rats were found dead in tubs, where they had been deprived of the most basic
    necessities—moderately clean air, dry bedding, drinking water, nutritious food,
    veterinary care, minimally humane handling, and adequate space to groom and
    engage in other normal and essential forms of behavior.
  • During
    sorting and moving rats, the facility manager was among those who threw them up
    to 8 feet into hard plastic containers.
  • Water
    valves in rat enclosures frequently malfunctioned, leaving the animals without
    water for extended periods of time, parched, their noses bloody from pushing at
    the bone-dry valves, dehydrated, and in many cases, dead.

Slowly Starved, Intentionally Ignored

Snakes, skinks, monitor lizards,
and other reptiles at GCB were essentially left to die; they were so neglected
that, in many cases, even their deaths went unnoticed by management―for days,
leaving enclosures and rotting carcasses teeming with
maggots. Some of them captured in the wild and stolen from their native
homes, reptiles at GCB didn’t stand much of a chance of survival.

  • Behm
    repeatedly told workers not to care for the facility’s reptiles because
    his revenue was coming from the rat-breeding operation and there was “no
    reason to spend time up front” (where the reptiles were housed) when the
    reptiles weren’t generating any revenue.
  • Many
    reptiles were kept shelved in lightless, opaque drawers so small that they
    could not move, eat, or eliminate normally and were trapped with their own
  • Many
    reptiles were kept confined without access to water.
  • Dozens of
    reptiles packed up for sale at a trade show were crammed into plastic deli cups
    and denied food, water, and other essentials for at least a week.
  • Chronic
    deprivation was the norm at GCB—reptiles often languished for weeks before
    finally dying—hopeless, isolated, and robbed of all that was natural and
    important to them.

in Filth, Mired in Misery

Behm typically employed just
three employees—and lately, one of those just three days a week—to care for up
to 19,000 animals during weekdays. On weekends, reptiles were not attended to
at all, and as of late October, rats weren’t, either, which meant a sky-high
body count on Monday mornings. In just their first few days at GCB, law-enforcement
officials found more than
700 dead animals.

PETA’s investigator never saw GCB bring a veterinarian into the
facility and was consistently turned down when he asked about providing
veterinary care to any of the animals, even those who were clearly in critical
condition and on death’s door.

PETA’s investigator brought obviously sick and injured animals’
suffering to the attention of Behm, the manager, and others but to no avail.
Week after week, animals languished and died, including these:

  • An
    emaciated, lethargic, pale, and shriveled albino boa constrictor—lying
    alongside maggots and reeking of rotting flesh for a month—whom the manager and
    a worker refused to help or even put out of his or her misery because Behm
    would have reportedly gotten angry. Instead, Behm told the manager to
    “wash” the snake in water; the snake was dead within a week.
  • For about
    a week, a thin, listless baby black tree monitor who was cold to the touch was
    left to waste away slowly before finally dying. The manager said it would be
    “too expensive” to euthanize the lizard. Another worker said that the
    animal had “to languish … [u]ntil he” died.
  • A Hogg
    Island boa constrictor was left to suffer with an untreated, grossly swollen
    nose for over a month after the manager saw the snake. A worker used a
    thumbtack that he got off a bulletin board to repeatedly jab the snake’s face
    and puncture the animal’s nose as the snake struggled and writhed. The worker
    then repeatedly squeezed the snake’s face, hard, until pus erupted from the
    wound. The snake’s nose swelled back up within a couple of days, and he
    continued to languish.
  • A weak
    and debilitated blue tongue skink was left to drag his injured back leg and
    suffer for more than a week before dying. When PETA’s investigator told the
    manager that the skink needed care, the manager threw his hands in the air and
    exclaimed, “There is nothing I can do for him … if he dies, he dies.
    That’s better than him living here, I guess.”

History of Sadism

GCB owner Mitch Behm is no
stranger to PETA. In 1985, while a biology student at the State University of
New York at Stony Brook, Behm raised mice, rats, and rabbits and then recorded
himself throwing them into tiny enclosures with ferrets, who attacked, maimed,
and killed the animals. The twisted “predator behavior
experiments”—which were not approved by the University—were, according to
Behm at the time, in part for his “personal enjoyment.” PETA
distributed the video under the title “Getting Away With Murder.” See
the disturbing footage for
yourself. PETA never forgot Behm, whose business in 2012 showed that little had
changed in the decades since we first encountered his perverse penchant for
watching animals suffer.

You Can Do

The cruelty documented by PETA’s
investigator at GCB is typical of the filth, crowding, deprivation, and stress
that PETA’s investigations of pet trade suppliers have documented over and over
again. You can help reptiles, rats, mice, and other animals exploited by this
ruthless, greed-driven business of misery and suffering by vowing never to
patronize stores that sell live animals. Share this investigation with your
friends and family now.

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Article source: PETA Action Alerts

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