The animal rights group PETA is calling on the USA Network to halt all use of wild animals in its television productions after charges were filed against the Jarales owners of a company that provides animals for productions.
The move from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals comes after it obtained body cam footage from a search of a home in Jarales done by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish on Dec. 15.
Game and Fish served a search warrant at the home of Chelsey and Kip Lewis, who run A to Z Film Animals, according to a criminal complaint. The business is contracted by film and TV companies to supply animals for productions.
A to Z Film Animals has apparently supplied animals for AMC’s “Better Call Saul,” Netflix’s “Godless” and Disney Plus’ “Stargirl,” as well as USA Network’s “Briarpatch,” among other productions, according to records.
The search warrant was in reference to documents Chelsey Lewis is accused of altering for the purpose of bringing two mountain lions to New Mexico from Montana.
Kip Lewis is charged with six counts of unlawful importation of nondomestic live animals. Chelsey Lewis is charged with six counts of conspiracy of unlawful importation.
Court records indicate they are scheduled for a pretrial hearing in Valencia County Magistrate Court in Belen on Thursday.
The pair were in possession of a capuchin monkey, a coyote, a prairie dog, a skunk, an American alligator, a raccoon and a kangaroo, according to the complaint.
Video from the seizure — which PETA reviewed and provided to USA Network — showed more than a dozen dogs being kept in kennels that were stacked on top of one another in a garage, animals crammed into closets and, before her apparent death, the alligator being held in a small, filthy outdoor pit, according to documents from New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Lewis Crary, PETA’s assistant manager for the Animals in Film and Television division, said the organization relies on crew members and concerned members of the public to report abuse.
“We make sure that we take the anonymity seriously,” he said. “We’ve begun to see animal rendering like in the (live-action) film ‘The Lion King,’ and we’re hoping that this is the next step in keeping the animals away from harm.”
New Mexico Economic Development Secretary Alicia J. Keyes said she agreed with PETA that the video showing alleged animal abuse is unacceptable.
“The case is awaiting trial and any comment about that case should be directed to the New Mexico Game and Fish Department,” Keyes said in a statement. “But the Economic Development Department and the New Mexico Film Office will not tolerate vendors or film subcontractors who do not follow the law or deprive animals of humane treatment. We will investigate further and take any necessary action.”