Nearly 20,000 rats and reptiles were found dying in a warehouse in one of the worst cases of cruelty California has ever seen. The owners of Global Captive Breeders are now facing more than 100 criminal charges.
Warrants for the arrest of Mitchell Steven Behm, age 54, and David Delgado, age 29, were issued by the Riverside county district attorney on Friday.
As reported by Yahoo News, the conditions in the warehouse were horrific. The initial undercover investigation was conducted by PETA. A representative from PETA was sent to work at the facility in an attempt to assess the situation.
The situation was far worse than anyone could have imagined. The animals were stored in plastic bins, many without any access to food and water. While some animals were dehydrated, others were drowned due to a malfunction with the watering system.
Some of the animals resorted to cannibalism for nourishment, others simply starved to death.
The containers were full of excrement, contributing to the unsanitary conditions.
PETA contacted the Marin Humane Society in Novato, asking for help.
Animal rescue workers from across the nation responded to the warehouse to find close to 20,000 rats and reptiles either dead or dying. It took an entire week to sort, euthanize, and remove, all of the animals.
The workers would have liked to save the animals. However, by the time they arrived at the warehouse, the 20,000 rats and reptiles were beyond help.
Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations for PETA, states that "little could have prepared [her] for the overwhelming stench of death and decay."
As reported by the The Press-Enterprise, Mitch Behm obtained a business permit for the breeding operation in 2009. Behm's permit allowed him to breed and sell reptiles and amphibians. He was also permitted to breed rats, which would be used to feed the reptiles.
***Warning: Graphic and disturbing images from inside warehouse
Animal Friends of the Valleys, which handles animal control for Lake Elsinore, reportedly inspected the facility in May 2012. They did not record or report any violations.
Seven months later, nearly 20,000 rats and reptiles were found dying in the warehouse.
[Image via Flickr]