9 min read

A Look Inside A Small Animal Auction

Sadly, the images of endangered animals are all too common in our daily lives. While beautiful to behold, these images remind us that the majestic grizzly bear is under attack, as are mountain lions, and wolves. Their plight is truly horrific and the world as we know it needs to change. On the other hand, it seems that a large group of animals in need are being unintentionally neglected. Where are the photos of our everyday birds and small animals? Where are the amazing shots of chickens, turkeys, ducks, or reptiles - the plain janes of the animal world? These "forgotten ones" are often overlooked because they don't have the benefit of being quite as majestic as pronghorn antelopes - but they still need our help, now more than ever.

Did you know that many animal cruelty laws specifically exclude poultry? And in our experience, law enforcement never responds to a call reporting cruelty to chickens at an auction. Farmers' markets and flea markets, mostly in rural areas, often have special "small animal sales" that offer poultry, rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles for a variety of uses, whether to individuals or businesses. Guinea pigs are often sold to zoos or exotic animal dealers as food for their snakes. Animals' Angels cares about all animals and we want to include every feathered and four legged friend in our advocacy efforts. Sadly, the treatment of chickens, rabbits, and other small animals sold at auction is grisly and unsettling. Over the past year AA has been attending these sales throughout Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky to document what exactly these small animals are being put through and the findings, unfortunately, are just as sickening as they are at cow and horse auctions. Abuse. Negligence. Cruelty.

Birds (chickens, turkey, peacocks, ducks, doves etc) are often transported to the auctions stored in very tiny cardboard boxes that do not allow enough airflow causing some to suffocate. Since there are no space requirements, overcrowding is the norm and careless sellers stuff as many animals as possible into the cage or box. Investigators have witnessed birds breaking wings and legs or getting trampled due to the overcrowded conditions.

Rabbits and guinea pigs are jammed into wire cages with no solid flooring which quickly leads to their paws get stuck in the wire. As they twist them to try to get out and are jostled around in the cage the wire digs into their feet and legs causing damage that goes untreated. Male roosters are sometimes placed next to each other at these auctions. With their spurs still intact, they often try to attack each other through their wire cages which of course leads to further injury. Peacocks and turkeys are often wedged into too small cages, breaking all of their feathers and causing great suffering to the birds. At the sales, especially in the summer time, many of the animals die of heat exhaustion due to the overcrowded conditions with no ventilation. Very rarely are fans installed to cool these heat sensitive animals and boxes are just piled sky high on top of each other, further restricting airflow.

Very rarely are these animals given water no matter how long the auction lasts which leads to death by dehydration. The sheer number of different ways these animals die is staggering. The owners take little pity in providing a comfortable space for their "product", so it is only on rare occasions when we have seen fans installed to keep the birds cool, access to water or adequate space to avoid injury. There is little to no regulatory oversight at these sales either. If someone wants to buy a bird or rabbit it's no problem to purchase it, then simply carry it by its wing, leg, or by the ears, then toss it into the trunk of a car. We have seen chickens yanked from their cages even if their feet were still stuck in the grid floor.

This torture is what AA is determined to stop. We are adamant in our advocacy for more spacious, sturdy cages with solid flooring and small water troughs. We are working tirelessly to make installed fans a requirement and that sales be moved to shaded, sheltered areas. In addition, we would like to see cardboard boxes banned and have a minimum space requirement with a restriction on the number of animals per cage. As far as legal legislation goes, it is a priority of ours to have birds included in all animal protection laws. Our current work includes drafting a comprehensive care guide for auction management. While we may not be able to stop the auctions from happening yet, we can at least recommend safe handling procedures and auction protocols. Until the day that all animals are treated humanely, we at AA will continue to document the conditions at various sales to expose the offenders and advocate for change. We will not allow these animals to be overlooked or neglected any longer. They deserve our help and we will do everything in our power to ensure their protection.

To learn more about our organization or to read our investigations and reports, please visit our website at animalsangels.org