Jason Brent Shaw formerly from Animal Source Texas
at center of cruelty case is federal fugitive
Federal officials have issued an arrest warrant for Shaw, 37, owner of the pet and wildlife wholesaler U.S. Global Exotics. It was there, in a Dec. 15 raid, that agents seized more than 26,000 animals – many dead or dying.
U.S. Global Exotics, for years a multimillion-dollar operation, later shut down. The surviving animals were placed with zoos, sanctuaries and rescue groups.
Shaw could not be reached for comment. His business and mobile phones have been disconnected.
Investigators believe Shaw fled the U.S. for his native New Zealand to avoid federal prosecution, a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Dallas Morning News.
Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge of law enforcement for the Southwest region, said the government considers Shaw a fugitive.
Shaw faces charges under the Lacey Act, a 110-year-old law that is the chief federal weapon against illegal hunting and criminal trade in wildlife.
The law adds federal enforcement to state wildlife laws and governs the import, export and interstate shipment of animals.
Chavez said Shaw faces Lacey Act charges related to importation and animal cruelty.
“We did file a criminal complaint,” Chavez said. An arrest warrant was issued Feb. 10 but kept confidential until now.
Shaw also is under federal investigation on allegations of smuggling, conspiracy and aiding and abetting.
Each felony violation of the Lacey Act can bring a penalty as high as five years in prison, a fine of $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for an organization and forfeiture of assets used in the crime.
The four-bedroom, two-story home in Coppell where he had lived since 1997 with his wife, Vanessa, who also worked at U.S. Global Exotics, is empty and for sale.
House on the market
A real-estate listing says the 2,923-square-foot house, offered at $296,500, went on the market March 6. Chavez said Vanessa Shaw faces no charges.
Fort Worth lawyer Lance T. Evans, who represented the Shaws and the company in their effort to regain custody of the confiscated animals, did not return phone calls.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which broke the case by placing an undercover investigator as an employee at U.S. Global Exotics, praised federal agents for acting swiftly against Shaw.
“The thing from our perspective is that so many animals suffered,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, a PETA vice president.
“If it weren’t for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these animals would not have been helped.”
The 26,411 animals seized from the company’s Arlington warehouse represented about 500 species. They included amphibians, reptiles such as snakes and turtles, and mammals ranging from sloths, lemurs and wallabies to hamsters.
Many were sick, and many others not included in the tally were already dead. Arlington Municipal Court Judge Michael Smith determined that the animals’ level of care amounted to cruelty. He ruled that their seizure was justified.
A Tarrant County court-at-law judge later upheld Smith’s ruling.
PETA launched a website Monday showing previously unreleased videos and photos that the group’s undercover investigator took during his seven months working at U.S. Global Exotics. The site says the animals were “cruelly confined, severely crowded, and denied basics such as food, water, space, humidity, heat, and veterinary care.”
The SPCA of Texas was given custody of the animals after the raid and organized the largest rescue in U.S. history. Zoos, rescue groups and sanctuaries across the country and in Canada took the animals, to keep or to transfer to other owners.
Reports indicate that the animals are doing well. Some are about to leave quarantine, said Maura Davies, senior director of communications for the SPCA of Texas.
“It was amazing to see so many people come together,” she said.
At the time of the raid, U.S. Global Exotics apparently had only three full-time workers caring for the animals. In earlier years, the company had a workforce as large as 15 and annual sales in the millions of dollars, court records show.
Shaw moved to Texas from New Zealand in 1997 as an employee of Animal Source Texas. That company was owned by the wildlife dealer Source New Zealand, according to files in a later lawsuit between Shaw and his former employers.
Millions in sales
Shaw set up U.S. Global Exotics in 2002 and left Animal Source Texas in 2003, court documents show. Animal Source Texas is still in business but has no relationship with Shaw, manager Zach Douglas said.
“None of us here now have ever met him, and we do not have any dealings with that, because they do pet trade and we do not,” he said.
U.S. Global Exotics shipped hundreds of thousands of animals worldwide and saw its business grow rapidly in the mid-2000s, government records show.
Shaw told U.S. Labor Department wage-and-hour investigators that the company had sales of $2.3 million in 2005. That figure rose to $3.4 million in 2006 and $4.5 million in the first 11 months of 2007, according to government records PETA obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Chavez said the continuing federal investigation launched with PETA’s information had already documented multiple wildlife violations. More charges are possible, he said.
“While most importers comply with wildlife protection laws,” he said, “this company did not.”
While Animal Source Texas claims no affiliation we are wondering if anyone out there can prove differently?