ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News investigated a local wholesale pet company accused of mistreating animals.
Sun Pet Limited supplies pet retailers like Petco and PetSmart.
A former employee recorded video inside the Southeast Atlanta facility showing what she reported to the state as filthy, hazardous conditions.
"The first initial problem I noticed was that the building was very, very, very dirty and it has this old mildew-ish smell," said Morgan Mays, who worked at Sun Pet Limited for five months in 2017. Mays recorded video of a rat in a toilet.
She said she saw animals living in conditions so bad some of them died.
"They're underweight. They're not hydrated enough," said Mays.
She told the state she saw workers kick and drop animals.
"Yeah, because they squeeze them. They pick them up wrong," said Mays.
Mays told us the cracked euthanizing machine also needed fixing.
"It's supposed to be quick so they won't suffer. Well, these little things just not going down," she said.
After Mays filed a formal complaint with state inspectors, they visited the facility in November 2017.
Mark Murrah is the Georgia Department of Agriculture's manager of the Companion Animal Equine Section. He told us inspectors look at "structural strength, sanitation, waste disposal, things of that nature."
We obtained the inspectors report that states they stopped the use of the cracked euthanizing chamber.
The next day, inspectors received a picture of a new, working one.
Inspectors wrote they found clean conditions and no loose animals. Managers told inspectors they had not heard of any employees mistreating animals.
We received four U.S.D.A inspection reports of Sun Pet. In 2011, inspectors found a dead guinea pig with live ones. But inspections in 2013, 2014 and 2016 found no problems. Two state inspections in 2015 found no violations.
Mays said representatives from retailer buyers, like Petco and PetSmart, see nothing wrong when they do an inspection.
"They come walk through but, like I said, they get shielded," she said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals secretly videotaped inside Sun Pet in 2010. Some of the video showed what looked like workers squeezing animals to death and putting them into bags to smash them against a table to kill them. The video led the state and Sun Pet to enter a consent order for humane care, structural strength and euthanasia violations.
Sun Pet told us they immediately fired the employee in the video and that behavior violates their strict standard operating procedures.
Mays also told us the environment is so bad, she got sick. She told the state the bathroom was virtually unusable. She said that's why she always left to use the bathroom, which got her written up.
"And my supervisor says 'Where are you going?' and I said to the bathroom. 'You can't wait five more minutes?' I said no, I've waited four hours already and I'm going to the bathroom," said Mays.
Mays said she initially took the video of the bathroom to show her bosses what needed correcting. Instead, she got fired for using her cellphone to take the video. She said the company instituted that policy after she alerted human resources.
Sun Pet gave us a statement that reads:
"The welfare and safety of animals in our care is our top priority. Veterinarians and independent experts help us ensure animals are treated with care. Frequent inspections by multiple government agencies, independent organizations and customers all indicate our facilities are clean and safe for animals and employees.
"The person in the 8-year old video was immediately terminated after discovery of the incident and the behavior depicted in the video violates our strict standard operating procedures.
"We are constantly evaluating our policies to ensure they help us best protect animals, including a requirement that all employees sign a contract to protect the animals in our care and immediately report any issues."
Mays said she is speaking out to warn others and to help the animals.
"I hope something can change," she said.
The 2010 consent order called for a $3,000 fine if Sun Pet had any new violations during a two-year probationary period. The state told us there were no violations, so Sun Pet didn't have to pay the fine.
A local veterinarian did a third-party audit of Sun Pet on Feb. 15, 2018 and found the facility was in full compliance.
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