Breeding facility operator who abused animals sentenced

MURRIETA – The manager of a now-shuttered Lake Elsinore animal breeding facility where reptiles and rodents were abused and killed was sentenced today to five years probation.

David Delgado, 29, of Rialto was arrested last July in connection with acts of cruelty against thousands of animals caged at Global Captive Breeders on Third Street.

Delgado and the owner of the facility, 55-year-old Mitchell Steven Behm of Coto de Caza, originally faced 117 felony counts of animal abuse. But under plea deals with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, all but a dozen counts were dismissed. Behm’s charges were also reduced to misdemeanors. He was sentenced last month to five years probation and ordered to pay $190,725 in restitution.

Superior Court Judge Judith Clark certified Delgado’s plea agreement today and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense. In addition to probation, the judge ordered that he spend 180 days in a county work-release program and complete 250 hours of community service.

As part of his probation, the defendant is prohibited from having any animals under his control, with the exception of his three dogs. Like his codefendant, Delgado will have to pay victim restitution totaling $190,000, according to court documents.

Clark ruled that Behm divide his restitution between People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the city of Lake Elsinore.

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 being abused.

The rodents were raised for reptile food.

An undercover PETA investigator got a job working at the site and kept a record of what transpired over a two-month span, according to the District Attorney’s office.

Delgado was witnessed ”causing traumatic injury or death to numerous rodents,” said D.A.’s office spokesman John Hall, alleging that Behm was fully aware of what was happening.

”What went on at Global Captive Breeders — where employees bludgeoned rats and left reptiles to starve to death slowly — shows the shocking extent of cruelty in the reptile and ‘small-pet’ trade,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA senior vice president of cruelty investigations.

The city of Lake Elsinore padlocked the business in December 2012 after AFV conducted a search and seizure at the site. According to agency officials, around 15,000 rodents and 500 reptiles were found dead or had to be euthanized.

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