Texas exotic animal dealer accused of animal cruelty is now considered a fugitive
Jasen Shaw, the Texas-based exotic animal dealer whose business was raided following animal cruelty allegations in December, is now considered a fugitive, the Dallas Morning News reports.
U.S. Global Exotics, the company Shaw operated with his wife, Vanessa, traded in hundreds of thousands of exotic animals and "pocket pets" -- about 500 species in all, including sloths, chinchillas, lemurs, hedgehogs, ferrets, snakes, turtles, lizards, amphibians and spiders -- since the company was founded in 2002. U.S. Global Exotics reported earnings in the millions during each of the years from 2005 through 2007, according to the Morning News.
More than 26,000 of the animals at the Arlington, Tex., facility were seized in the December raid, which was precipitated by a months-long undercover investigation by a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals employee. The investigator, Howard Goldman, provided photographic evidence and undercover video documenting the conditions at U.S. Global Exotics and later offered his testimony about the company in court.
A number of animals were either found dead by rescuers or died shortly after the raid. Jay Sabatucci, manager of animal services with the city of Arlington, reported finding animals that "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."
U.S. Global Exotics subsequently closed, and the surviving animals were entrusted to the SPCA of Texas, which placed many with private rescue organizations, zoos and animal sanctuaries.
In February, an arrest warrant was issued for Shaw on charges of violating the Lacey Act. This month Nicholas Chavez, a special agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the Morning News that the government now considers Shaw a fugitive.
Shaw and his wife have reportedly moved back to his New Zealand birthplace, according to multiple sources. The New Zealand Herald reports:
[Shaw's lawyer Lance Evans] said he had met officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. attorney's office and "they are well aware the Shaws moved back to New Zealand." He said he would wait before commenting on when Shaw might return to the U.S.
Interpol NZ said it was aware Shaw was back in the country but it had not been contacted by the U.S.
It said it was unlikely he could be extradited on the charges and he would most likely have to return to the U.S. voluntarily to face them.
Goldman, the PETA investigator, has said he was personally responsible for the care of 1,500 to 3,000 snakes at any one time while employed at U.S. Global Exotics. "We never had the proper amount of food. The snakes would go two or three weeks without even being offered food," Goldman said in court, referencing his allegation that the Shaws regularly refused to provide food and veterinary supplies for the animals in their care. "There were days I found hundreds of snakes dead."
After the raid, U.S. Global Exotics tried to regain custody of the seized animals. During court proceedings, Evans accused Goldman of purposely neglecting the animals in his care, suggesting he was "more concerned about helping PETA achieve its goal of putting U.S. Global out of business than actually aiding any animals that he felt were in distress."
PETA co-founder and president Ingrid Newkirk scoffed, writing in an e-mail to the Associated Press that U.S. Global Exotics was trying "to pin the blame for a litany of horrors on the one person who actually cared about the animals."
A judge apparently agreed with Newkirk, ruling that the surviving animals should not be returned to the Shaws. Evans intimated that he expected the Shaws to appeal the ruling, but no such appeal occurred before the couple moved to New Zealand.
A federal investigation of Shaw relating to allegations of smuggling, conspiracy and aiding and abetting is ongoing, according to the Morning News. Vanessa Shaw will not face any charges.
PETA has dedicated a section of its website to displaying the photos and videos from the undercover investigation into U.S. Global Exotics. It has alleged that some of the animals seized from the company "were destined for sale at major national chains such as PetSmart and Petco," according to a statement.
-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Prairie dogs are seen in a photo from PETA's undercover investigation. Credit: PETA