For Immediate Release:
November 1, 2023
Brittney Williams 202-483-7382
Jefferson County, Tenn. – A damning U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report just obtained by PETA reveals that Sugar Glider Alley, a Jefferson County breeding facility operated by Sylvia Dishman, has been cited yet again for violating the federal Animal Welfare Act—this time related to an “excessive accumulation of waste” on the animals’ cage racks—marking the 32nd violation there since 2014.
Despite this pattern of repeated violations, the USDA has yet to rescue a single animal or seek any penalties against Dishman, so PETA rushed a letter to James B. Dunn, the district attorney general for the Fourth Judicial District, urging him to have a veterinarian visit the facility with investigators and file appropriate charges against those responsible for the neglect.
According to the report, on September 20 a USDA inspector observed waste on the cage racks, “splashed and dried” on nearby walls, and even “accumulated” on the animals’ water sources. The sugar gliders were also exposed to such “a large amount of flying insects” that “the inspector was continually swiping at gnats while speaking.” Nearly half the cages were severely rusted and/or corroded, with a “sticky layer” on them—a disease hazard risk for the animals inside. This neglect appears to violate Tennessee’s prohibition against cruelty to animals.
Dishman has been repeatedly cited for similar filth, including in 2015 when a “brown sticky substance” was first documented on the sugar gliders’ cages and the “odor … was so strong and pungent that the inspector acquired a headache.”
“Miserable mills like this one deny animals proper care and treat them as nothing but commodities,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “PETA is urging local authorities to prosecute those responsible for this persistent neglect and calls on everyone to avoid buying any animals from breeders or pet stores, which keep operations like this one in business, and to adopt an animal from a shelter instead.”
PETA is pursuing charges under state law because the USDA doesn’t render relief or aid to animals during its inspections and—as Dishman’s history of violations shows—these infractions carry no federal criminal or civil penalties.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Dunn follows.
November 1, 2023
The Honorable James B. Dunn
District Attorney General for the Fourth Judicial District
Dear Mr. Dunn:
I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office (and the proper law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and, as suitable, file criminal charges against those responsible for neglecting animals at Sugar Glider Alley, operated by Sylvia Dishman and located at 904 Beechwood Dr. near Dandridge. PETA hopes investigators will visit the facility with a veterinarian who has expertise in exotic-animal health and welfare so that they can identify any animals in need of care and opine on the conditions of and for the approximately 160 sugar gliders there.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) staff have documented persistent neglect at the kennel in the attached reports, the latest of which was just made public. On September 20, a USDA veterinarian found “an excessive accumulation of waste … on the [animals’] cage racks” as well as waste “splashed and dried” on nearby walls and “accumulated” on the animals’ water sources. The animals were exposed to such “a large amount of flying insects” that “the inspector was continually swiping at gnats while speaking.” Furthermore, nearly half the cages were severely rusted and/or corroded, with a “sticky layer accumulating” on them—a disease hazard risk for the animals inside. This neglect appears to violate Tennessee’s prohibition against cruelty to animals, T.C.A. § 39-14-202.
Please note that beyond the offense’s statute of limitations, Dishman has been repeatedly cited for similar filth since at least September 2014, when fruit flies were seen in sugar glider cages. In November 2015, a “brown sticky substance” was first documented on Dishman’s cages and the “odor … was so strong and pungent that the inspector acquired a headache.” In May 2017, the “strong odor” and “brown sticky substance” were again documented. Seven months later, dead fruit flies and a “sticky film” were found near sugar gliders there. In May 2022, yet again a “very strong odor” was noted, along with waste on cage floors.
The USDA renders no aid or relief whatsoever to animals on site, and these reports carry no criminal or civil penalties and don’t preempt criminal liability under state law for neglecting animals. If you’d like to learn more about the agency’s findings, please see the contact information for its office in Riverdale, Maryland, here.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Vice President of Evidence Analysis