People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals filed a complaint with federal authorities last month alleging a prominent animal training and handling firm mistreated animals housed in its 5-acre facility.
A complaint filed with the USDA on Dec. 28 accused Birds & Animals Unlimited of violating the federal Animal Welfare Act at its Acton shelter by allowing "animals to suffer without licensed veterinary evaluation or care," according to the Hollywood Reporter. The reported abuse was documented in a PETA "eyewitness investigation" with the help of an employee who worked for Birds & Animals.
The facility has rented out animals for hundreds of productions, including "The Hangover," "Game of Thrones" and "Pirates of the Caribbean."
Two additional complaints were filed with the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife earlier this month.
PETA said that in one case, a pig name Miss Piggy was "exceptionally emaciated" and suffered from a chronic skin condition that caused lesions across the right side of her body. The organization also claimed, based on accounts from a facility employee, that Birds & Animals had no attending veterinarian for at least four weeks.
In a letter to the Hollywood Reporter, Birds & Animals called PETA's exposé "fiction" and said the images associated with the report were misleading.
"The truth about these animals (and all animals at Birds & Animals) is that they are under constant — years' long — veterinary care, are treated with love and respect, compassion, kindness and all appropriate medical attention even where the more expedient (or financially prudent) approach would be to do otherwise," the facility said.
Birds & Animals said that it earned "top marks" from the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control and that it had inspected all of the animals at the facility in September.
The company added that the USDA inspected its facility Jan. 4, the same day PETA called in a complaint. The USDA "inspected everything," including animals, housing and veterinary records, according to Birds & Animals.
"Kudos to PETA for all the good work it does, but PETA is a non‐profit organization that sustains itself by getting its members up in arms about alleged abuse," the company said in its letter.
Bob Ferber, a retired L.A. city attorney's office prosecutor who founded its Animal Protection Unit, told the Hollywood Reporter that "this may or may not eventually rise to the level of a criminal case, but it's still shocking."
"They are keeping animals the way a local, poor, underfunded shelter would do it," Ferber told the magazine. "These facilities are pathetic-looking for a private facility making money off of these animals. I almost never agree with PETA — they do sometimes take an isolated situation and make it out as more than it really is — but the entertainment industry should be surprised by what's going on here."
For more California news follow me on Twitter: @sarahparvini