Animal cruelty accused was a 'target'

MATT NIPPERT
Last updated 05:00 01/04/2012

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A man who was held by a Texas Court to be guilty of mistreating more than 27,000 animals and who was later named in a federal arrest warrant issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service for alleged protected wildlife trafficking is living and working in Auckland.

The man, through his lawyer, says he does not agree with the court rulings and he strongly denies the charges brought by USFWS.

New Zealand resident Jasen Shaw ran Texas-based exotic pet business US Global Exotics until it was shut down late in 2009 after a judge in the City of Arlington, Texas Municipal Court ruled all 27,000 animals – representing 500 species including frogs, lemurs, iguanas and even wallabies sourced from Rotorua – held at the facility, were deprived of food, water and living space in a manner that amounted to cruel treatment.

Also, a Fish and Wildlife Service investigation led to an arrest warrant for protected wildlife trafficking being issued for Shaw in February, 2010.

The 39-year-old became subject to an Interpol red notice, raising international border alerts. It is understood the border alert had not been activated before he flew home.

Since returning to New Zealand he has remained silent on the Texas-based case.

After a lengthy investigation, Shaw was found living in Ellerslie with his wife Vanessa – a co-owner of Global Exotics, but who is not sought by authorities.

He is working in Auckland's central business district as the vice-president of international trade and logistics for the New Zealand Trade Centre.

Shaw described the arrest warrant and Interpol alert as "things going on that I'm trying to deal with", and referred all questions to his lawyer Tony Wicks, who said in a statement that his client denied the Wildlife Services charges and disputed the Texan court's cruel treatment ruling.

"Shaw does not in any way condone the maltreatment of animals," Wicks said, adding Shaw was no longer involved in handling animals, and did not intend to return to the trade.

Wicks said the seizure and arrest warrant came after Global Exotics was targeted by "well-known radical animal rights group" the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – Peta.

"Shaw and his family have had to endure a long and orchestrated campaign that has unfairly and adversely affected their lives to a huge degree," Wicks said.

Arlington Texas Municipal Court Judge Michael Smith ruled in 2009 that all 27,000 animals seized had been cruelly mistreated and refused to return the animals.

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He said the evidence showed most witnesses described a "constant stench of death" at the facility, that half of a shipment of 414 iguanas died after being left unattended for two weeks, and he ruled many animals were "subject to conditions that promoted fighting and cannibalism".

Shaw appealed the ruling to the Tarrant County courts, but his case was dismissed.

Green Party MP and animal welfare spokeswoman Mojo Mathers said the court ruling "presents a compelling case of extreme animal cruelty and neglect".

Wildlife Service special agent Richard Cook, who heads the case, said from Texas that while the arrest warrant was still active, the case had stalled over the antiquated treaty governing extraditions between New Zealand and the US.

"New Zealand has been fully co-operative with us. There are no complaints at this end. It's just the way the extradition treaty is drawn up, the way it stands now – it may need to be changed at some point in regards to wildlife trafficking issues," he said.

The treaty, drafted in 1970 and never updated, lists 31 offences where extradition is allowed. While abortion and sodomy are extraditable offences, animal trafficking is not.

Mathers said the exclusion of wildlife trafficking from the treaty was a loophole that needed to be closed. She compared the Shaw matter with the high-profile Kim Dotcom extradition case and said more needed to be done to enforce animal welfare and trafficking laws internationally.

Wicks said Shaw had not been approached by US or New Zealand authorities and he was seeking to resolve the case using "appropriate legal means and in a professional manner".

- Sunday Star Times

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