In August 2012, PETA was contacted by a whistleblower who had been volunteering for several months as an animal care assistant for a licensed wildlife rehabilitator operating out of her Florida home—a home where ill, injured, and orphaned wild animals were living in filth, left to languish without food or water.

Owl from Gainesville rescue

A barred owl stranded in a bathtub, surrounded by her own waste

The shocking conditions shown in footage taken by the whistleblower over the course of three weeks included the following:

  • A hairless baby raccoon was lying on top of a scale, inside a cluttered office without heat or bedding. Two days later, the same animal, then near death, was in the same place.
  • Numerous baby squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons were stashed inside boxes or on top of the boxes with no obvious heat source. Later, the animals were in the same spots, badly dehydrated and dying—or dead.
  • The rehabber’s refrigerator contained, at times, 30 or more unwrapped bodies of rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons inside the door and in tubs.
  • Turtles were kept for days inside boxes that didn’t appear to have been opened, with no sign that the animals were provided with food or water.
  • A barred owl was stranded in a bathtub, surrounded by her own waste.
  • A river otter was housed in a small pen with only a little kid’s pool as a source of water for drinking and swimming.
  • A live squirrel was wrapped inside a plastic bag and stashed behind several boxes.
  • About a dozen deer were penned inside a debris-strewn yard amid trash, animal crates, construction materials, and a boat.

PETA alerted state and federal wildlife officials, leading to the rescue of numerous suffering turtles, tortoises, and birds, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission filed 23 charges against the rehabber for animal neglect, improper animal housing, and unsanitary conditions. Following a plea bargain, the survivors were removed from the woman’s care for release back into the wild or transfer to other facilities better equipped to meet their needs.

What You Can Do
Even well-meaning animal rescuers can become overwhelmed. Even worse, many out-of-control hoarders use rescue as an excuse, causing massive suffering for the animals who fall into their hands.

If you know of animals suffering in a supposed rescue or rehab facility, don’t be silent—act right away!