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Pair charged with abusing reptiles, rodents

Published On: Jul 22 2013 04:28:34 PM CDT

MGN Online

MURRIETA, Calif. -

The operators of a Lake Elsinore business that specialized in the captive breeding of reptiles and rodents for wholesale distribution are each facing more than 100 animal cruelty charges for allegedly abusing and killing the creatures, prosecutors announced today.

Mitchell Steven Behm, 54, of Coto de Caza, and David Delgado, 28, of Rialto were arrested and charged Friday in connection with acts of alleged cruelty against thousands of animals that were caged at Global Captive Breeders on Third Street.

Behm is free on $50,000 bail; Delgado is being held in lieu of the same amount at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside.

Behm, the owner of Global Captive Breeders, is charged with 106 counts of animal cruelty. Delgado managed the now-shuttered facility and faces 117 counts, according to the Riverside County District Attorney's Office.

Wildomar-based Animal Friends of the Valleys, a nonprofit that provides animal control services for contracting cities throughout southwest Riverside County, initiated an investigation of Global Captive Breeders after receiving information that rodents, exotic snakes and other creatures were allegedly kept in appalling conditions, and in the case of the rats and mice, were being tortured and killed.

The rodents were raised for reptile food.

A member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals got a job working at the site and kept a record of what allegedly transpired over a two-month span, according to the District Attorney's office.

Delgado was observed ``causing traumatic injury or death to numerous rodents,'' district attorney's spokesman John Hall alleged. Behm is accused of being fully aware of what was happening, he said.

The city of Lake Elsinore ordered the business closed last December after Animal Friends of the Valleys conducted a search and seizure at the site, during which more than 15,000 rodents and 500 reptiles were found dead or had to be euthanized.