In September 2011 and again in March of this year, AA investigators attended the Mt. Hope Exotic Auction in Ohio. Ohio was one of the few states that until very recently had virtually no restrictions regulating the sale and ownership of exotic animals.
The 2-3 day event is held 2 times a year. In both September and March, AA investigators were able to document conditions for literally thousands of animals, including 2 Grevy's zebras on the endangered species list.
Though far from ideal, there was some improvement at the March auction. Wolves, primates and large constricting snakes were not being offerd at the spring sale. The auction notice offered apologies for the "inconvenience this causes...as we also wait on the proposed legislation." Many of the birds and rabbits had access to water only on the first day. Overall, auction conditions were clearly poor.
Vehicles from NY, NJ, PA, TN, NC, IN, MI, VA, IL and OH, and several private hunting preserves, exotic animal farms and zoos were in attendance. Vehicles carrying animals in cardboard boxes, homemade cages and plastic laundry baskets waited over 5 hours to unload.
Cages stacked 5 and 6 high and wavered overhead. Some had fallen and hung precariously between other cages.
Cages of doves and chicken were especially packed and crowded. Other cages were so small animals cound not move. Some were home-made and completely unacceptable. Almost all cages had bare wire only for animals to stand on.
Peacock cages, some fallen from the pile
By the 2nd day the majority of cages did not have food or water. Though auction flyers state that it is responsibility of the owner to take care of their animals, they apparently do not monitor to ensure that this really happens.
It appeared that many larger animals such as buffalo, bison, zebras, camels and deer, were bought by private hunting preserves where hunters pay as much as $5,000.00 to shoot a water buffalo, $2,000 for a fallow deer and $2,000 to $6,000 for an elk, and hang the head on a wall.
Tortoise in plastic tub
Containers with animals on floor level were kicked repeatedly. Many families at the auction came to see all the "cute" animals. Cages were constantly being opened to pet, handle and stress the animals. Other animals, such as tortoises, were in plastic tubs with tiny air holes.
Investigators were very surprised to see 2 Grevy's zebras, which are on the endangered species list. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, only 2,500 Grevy's zebras are left in the wild and only in parts of Kenya and Ethiopia.
AA immediately contacted the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, but was informed that the Endangered Species Act only protects animals that are bought or sold in interstate commerce. Thus, if a 'protected', endangered animal is born in captivity in Ohio, it can legally be sold and killed at a hunting farm within the state.
Recommendations to Auction Management:
- Insist on properly sized, stable, adequate cages with proper flooring.
- Refuse overcrowded cages.
- Advise/train auction employees in proper placement of cages in a safe and stable manner
-- Advise/train auction employees in the proper placement of cages with aggressive birds or other animals to prevent fighting and injuries.
- Advise/train auction employees to maintain access to food and water of all animals during all days the sale. Advise sellers that they will not be allowed to participate in future sales if their animal is without food or water by a particular hour of each day.
- Limit the number of auction visitors allowed in areas to avoid overcrowding and cages being kicked.
- Limit or restrict auction visitors from opening cages and handling animals without supervision.
Read the full length investigative report...