Mitchell Steven Behm, Exotic Animal Breeder, Slapped With 106 Critter-Cruelty Counts
In December, we brought you photos and descriptions of the disgusting conditions at a Rancho Santa Margarita exotic-pet company's Lake Elsinore breeding facility, where more than 18,400 rodents and about 600 reptiles (mostly snakes) had to be euthanized.
Global Captive Breeders (GCB) has since closed, but owner Mitchell Steven Behm and manager David Delgado were arrested and each charged with 106 counts of felony cruelty to animals.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other animal advocates had investigated GCB for two months before veterinary experts from PETA, Animal Friends of the Valleys, the Marin Humane Society, the Colorado Reptile Humane Society and elsewhere first entered the 6,100-square-foot facility in Lake Elsinore on Dec. 12, 2012.
That produced video footage and photographs from PETA that were turned over to Lake Elsinore city officials, who began their own probe that reportedly led to the largest seizure of rats in U.S. history and the largest-ever seizure of animals in California.
Reptiles were left to starve to death slowly, rodents and reptiles were forced to live in their own accumulated waste, and rats routinely drowned because of faulty equipment or were bludgeoned, slammed against hard surfaces and tossed--sometimes alive--into trash cans, PETA claims its investigation uncovered.
In March, PETA presented a petition to the Riverside County district attorney's office (RCDA) calling for criminal charges. Behm, 54, was arrested at his Coto de Caza home Friday night, according to a news release from RCDA. Delgado, 29, of Rialto, was also arrested Friday on the same counts as Behm, as well as 11 felony charges of torturing or killing rodents, the RCDA noted.
Each charge the men face is punishable by up to $20,000 in fines and 36 months behind bars, according to PETA.