Restitution ordered over dead, dying reptiles in Lake Elsinore

View Comments
This Dec. 2012 photo provided by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a monitor lizards that was very emaciated, with plainly visible vertebrae, who was also missing skin from the white areas on his or her nose and back, at a breeding center in Lake Elsinore, Calif.  (AP Photo/PETA)

This Dec. 2012 photo provided by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a monitor lizards that was very emaciated, with plainly visible vertebrae, who was also missing skin from the white areas on his or her nose and back, at a breeding center in Lake Elsinore, Calif. (AP Photo/PETA)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A Southern California exotic pet breeder who had 20,000 dead and dying rats and reptiles in a warehouse has avoided jail time but was ordered to pay more than $190,000 in restitution.

Mitchell Steven Behm, 55, of Coto de Caza, also was sentenced to five years of probation and 200 hours of community service at a hearing Wednesday.

He owned Global Captive Breeders in Lake Elsinore, 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles, which sold exotic snakes and reptiles, along with rats for reptile food.

Behm and business manager David Delgado were arrested and initially charged with more than 100 counts each of felony animal cruelty. Behm negotiated a deal, pleading to a dozen misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Under its terms, Behm won’t be able to own any animals or operate any animal-related businesses.

Delgado, 30, of Rialto, has pleaded guilty to a dozen felony counts and faces more than five years in prison. His sentencing hearing is in May.

In 2012, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals received a tip from a whistleblower and sent in an undercover investigator.

After two months of documentation from PETA, animal control workers entered the warehouse, only to find themselves gasping for air and running for the exits because of the stench.

In this Dec. 2012 photo provided by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a weak and lethargic rat who was found in a tub among at least 200 other juvenile rats, many of whom were severely dehydrated and dying at a breeding center in Lake Elsinore, Calif., authorities said Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/PETA)

In this Dec. 2012 photo provided by People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows a weak and lethargic rat who was found in a tub among at least 200 other juvenile rats, many of whom were severely dehydrated and dying at a breeding center in Lake Elsinore, Calif., authorities said Monday, July 22, 2013. (AP Photo/PETA)

Some of the animals already were dead when rescue workers arrived. Veterinarians determined that those still living were too sick to treat and too toxic to move, so they had to be euthanized.

The restitution Behm had to pay included $102,000 to the city and about $88,000 to PETA. Behm already has paid most of the bill, with the balance due in 90 days.

“No punishment could compare to the daily horror that thousands of rodents and reptiles endured at Global Captive Breeders, but this sentence is an important step,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of cruelty investigations for PETA.

“Animals at GCB lived miserably and died in fear and pain. Confined to cramped, filthy bins, they slowly starved, drowned, or languished without veterinary care in nightmarish conditions typical of suppliers to the pet trade industry. Behm’s restitution to PETA will allow us to continue to expose such cruelty to animals, wherever it occurs,” Nachminovitch said.

___

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28,185 other followers