More than 27,000 animals are now the legal custody of the city of Arlington, Texas, following their seizure from U.S Global Exotics following a judgement on the 30th January.

I have been kept in touch with the goings on in Arlington, Texas, thanks to the wonderful folk at the Hedgehog Welfare Society, as well as friends on Facebook.

Just over three weeks ago I posted the story – about the company U.S Global Exotics and its exposure as a desperately cruel enterprise thanks to the enterprising investigations of an undercover operative from PETA.

And now, homes are being sought for the 600 or so hedgehogs. One of my facebook friends (Vicki McLean) is on her way to Texas to get as many as she can and help re-home them. She has already been busy helping care for them.

Yet again, I admire the dedication that hedgehogs attract – whether it is the amazing hedgehog and wildlife rehabilitators here in the UK, or those who expend enormous resources on vulnerable hedgehogs in the alien space of the USA.

Why do hedgehogs attract such love and attention? Partly it is because they are the only wild animal that we can easily nurture – they ‘allow’ us by dint of their behaviour when threatened to care for them. But there is something else (other than the fact that they are darn cute) – and that is the gateway they provide to a touch of the wild. So this is my concern about the domestication of the hedgehog. What makes a hedgehog so special is its wild heart … so please – when these ones are rescued – can some thought be given to allowing them to keep what makes them so very very special.

More than 27,000 animals, including over 730 hedgehogs, have been seized from exotic pet dealer in Arlington, Texas. The company, US Global Exotics, was raided following a seven month undercover investigation by the animal rights organisation, PETA.

In what is thought to be the largest seizure of animals in the US, the range of species found is staggering: wallabies, sloths, ringtail lemurs, kinkajous, coatimundis, agoutis, hedgehogs, chinchillas, hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, flying squirrels, guinea pigs, sugar gliders, prairie dogs, ferrets, snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, spiders, crabs, and scorpions.

Many of these animals have been collected from the wild and transported to the dealer. The undercover recordings on the PETA website show that US Global Exotics was a company that appeared not to care about the welfare of the animals. There are some very grisly and gruesome images, so be warned before looking at the video.

Friends of mine, who I met at the Rocky Mountain Hedgehog Show while researching my book, have been helping to clear up the mess by taking the hedgehogs into care. But now the Hedgehog Welfare Society needs help and money so they can re-home the hedgehogs.

And this is where I get annoyed about the whole exotic pet industry. The hedgehog pet keepers I met were wonderful and kind if, to be honest, a little eccentric. They love their hedgehogs, they care for them without fault. But their wonderful care helps perpetuate the exotic pet industry. They encourage people to think that it is okay to have these animals as pets and this means that other people, less well-equipped to be nurturing (or simply downright mean and stupid), think it is okay  to have an exotic animal as a companion.

I don’t know what the answer is, but while there is big money to be made from the exotic pet trade, there are always going to be people, like US Global Exotics, who will take advantage of lax enforcement of animal welfare legislation to try and squeeze extra profit from the bodies of these animals.

And if it were not for the intrepid investigator, none of this would have made the news – and the animals would continue to be abused. So all praise to the brave and wonderful undercover stars – who have to keep their light well and truly hidden. And if you are ever tempted to buy an exotic pet – try and find out what it went through before it got to you before making a decision.