ARLINGTON, Texas – Attorneys for an exotic animal dealer have accused an employee of intentionally neglecting animals to further his work as an undercover investigator for an animal rights group.
Howard Goldman could have done more to provide food, water and care for the animals that he said were being mistreated, said Lance Evans, an attorney for Jasen and Vanessa Shaw, the owners of U.S. Global Exotics.
Instead, Goldman secretly took photos and made daily reports to send to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Evans said.
"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," Evans said. Goldman worked at the Arlington facility for seven months.
During that time, he did all he could to help the animals, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. She accused U.S. Global Exotics of trying "to pin the blame for a litany of horrors on the one person who actually cared about the animals."
U.S. Global Exotics is trying to regain custody of more than 26,000 animals seized by the city Dec. 15 after Goldman turned over evidence describing what he said was animal cruelty at the Internet-based company.
Arlington officials have said the raid turned up starving snakes, hundreds of reptiles packed in shipping crates and rodents that had killed and eaten each other.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports an Arlington Municipal Court judge is expected this week to decide custody of the animals.
Goldman testified last week that PETA asked him to apply for a job at U.S. Global Exotics to investigate conditions. PETA paid him $135 for each day he turned in a report while working as snake caretaker.
Evans asked Goldman on why he did not follow a posted list of duties in the snake room and let snakes go for weeks without food or water or clean cages.
Goldman said 1,500 to 3,000 snakes were under his care at any given time. He said he did everything he could for the animals but the Shaws would not pay for the food, medical and other supplies he requested.
"We never had the proper amount of food. The snakes would go two or three weeks without even being offered food," Goldman testified. "There were days I found hundreds of snakes dead."
Paul Boiko, another U.S. Global employee, testified Monday that most animals were fed and watered regularly and a veterinarian visited once a week.
Boiko said some animals were not fed before being packaged to avoid problems during shipping. And, in a practice he described as standard in the industry, animals like turtles and iguanas were kept in cold conditions to force hibernation so they wouldn't eat or move much.