MURRIETA (CBSLA.com) — Two men who ran a Lake Elsinore animal breeding facility where rodents and reptiles lived in their own accumulated waste could face up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to misdemeanor and felony charges, according to reports.
Mitchell Steven Behm, 55, of Coto de Caza, and David Delgado, 29, of Rialto, were arrested last July after a two-month investigation revealed that thousands of animals at Global Captive Breeders were left to starve, drown, and suffer without even basic veterinary care, according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
GCB owner Behm has pleaded guilty to 12 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals, while Delgado, who managed the now-closed facility on Third Street, has pleaded guilty to 12 felony counts, according to PETA.
Behm must also pay restitution – reportedly totaling more than $158,000— to both PETA and the city of Lake Elsinore for costs associated with the investigation and the seizure of the animals, officials said.
Video footage and images from the PETA investigation – which led to the seizure of more than 16,000 animals in late 2012, the largest ever in California – showed what officials described as deplorable conditions, including:
- over 200 juvenile rats, many of whom were severely dehydrated and dying, living in a severely crowded tub;
- one rat who was shot twice with a BB gun and thrown into a trash can full of feces, urine, and dead rats; and
- snakes with severe facial swelling and respiratory infections.
According to PETA, Delgado routinely slammed rats into hard surfaces, froze animals alive, and was caught stomping on a rat, while Behm repeatedly told workers not to care for the facility’s reptiles because they weren’t generating revenue.
“What went on at Global Captive Breeders — where employees bludgeoned rats and left reptiles to starve to death slowly — shows the shocking extent of cruelty in the reptile and small-‘pet’ trade,” says PETA’s Daphna Nachminovitch.
Behm and Delgado are scheduled to be sentenced on April 15 and May 22, respectively.
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