Court documents reveal dozens of reptiles have been kept in appalling conditions at The Reptile Guy in Mission, B.C. The Reptile Guy bills itself as a rescue and education centre.
Between 2010 and 2013, four separate animal cruelty complaints were filed in respect of The Reptile Guy. However, owner Mike Hopcraft would not cooperate with law enforcement’s investigations and there were insufficient grounds for search warrants. In June 2015, an ex-employee filed a more comprehensive complaint, including photos and statements, and search warrants were obtained.
From July to December, multiple court-monitored inspections were conducted at The Reptile Guy with two veterinarians present. Investigators repeatedly found dead animals, animals in such severe distress that they needed to be euthanized, infected and injured animals, emaciated and underweight animals, unsanitary tanks, overcrowding, cramped conditions, moldy feces in tanks with live animals, animals with no water or undrinkable water, exposed wires, and broken lights.
Mr. Hopcraft was given specific orders for how to remediate the problematic conditions and avoid further legal intervention. Orders included to keep tanks sanitary and hazard-free, to provide adequately sized tanks, and to provide water at all times.
Mr. Hopcraft exhibited violent behaviour towards investigators on at least two occasions, according to court documents. Once, when a search warrant was presented to him outside the premises, he locked the door; documents indicate he then “whipped the keys towards the door and hit [a female constable] in the leg.”
Court documents also state, “When Hopcraft was informed [two emaciated animals, one with four broken legs] were going to be seized he kicked a chair across the office and was escorted outside by the RCMP.”
In December, another inspection of the premises revealed continued neglect. Law enforcement seized 61 animals in need of veterinary attention plus six dead animals.
Cases like this one demonstrate clearly why keeping exotic animals, including reptiles, must be prohibited by the law. Reptiles and other exotic animals have biological needs that simply cannot be met in captivity, and it is critical to keep them out of the hands of neglectful owners.
The public should also beware of placing trust in an animal facility simply because it calls itself a sanctuary or a rescue. Before donating or visiting, it’s always wise to ensure a facility is a legitimate animal sanctuary or rescue operation that prioritizes the physical and psychological welfare of animals in its care.