Monday, December 6, 2010

Terry Cullen - Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Dec 7, 2010: Letter to the Animal Legal Defense fund
from J. Nick Augustine, J.D.

President, Strategy Consultant and Publicist for Terry Cullen

Seized Reptiles Were "On Loan" from Zoos

Discovered by police investigating an assault case, scores of allegedly neglected reptiles – many reportedly ill or with injuries, some already dead – were rescued from Terry Cullen’s residence in May 2010. In yet another example of the link between animal abuse and violence against humans, Cullen is facing charges related to alleged animal abuse, sexual assault and false imprisonment.

Cullen had presented himself as a reptile collector for years, and many of the animals in his possession, including endangered species, were reportedly
loaned to him by zoos. That only a handful of these zoos are reported to have come forward to take responsibility for the animals they had given to Cullen “on loan” is no surprise to seasoned wildlife rescuers. Quoted in the Journal-Sentinal is the Colorado Reptile Humane Society’s director Ann-Elizabeth Nash:

"Decades-long transfers of the animals don't make any sense. There is either an institutional commitment to the animal or there isn't," she said. "This is a Pandora's box. Not many people know about this, but numbers-wise this kind of thing is going to make puppy mill seizures a joke. There is this behind-the-scenes interaction between AZA institutions and institutions not AZA. What is the level of self-policing the AZA does? What are the vetting protocols to loan to non-AZA? There is a feeling that if the animal doesn't have fur, it's not something we need to worry about."

Take Action!
Locals are encouraged to support the prosecution by
attending court proceedings. A hearing date in the criminal case against Terry Cullen is currently scheduled for December 13, 2010. (Always contact the Court to confirm court dates and locations as they are subject to change.) Please notify us at if you plan on attending.

Circuit Court of Milwaukee County
Safety Building
821 West State Street
Milwaukee, WI 53233
Case #2010CF002659

Contact the zoos in your state and ask them to document their policies on “animal loans” for you. Many zoos benefit from taxpayer dollars, and the public should expect there to be a goal of lifetime responsibility with respect to each animal a zoo accepts into its charge, with a clear and transparent record-keeping system in place to discourage untraceable animal dealing. It is unfortunately a rare zoo that meets this responsibility with any meaningful accuracy – breeding programs resulting in animal “surpluses,” “group populations” such as flocks and colonies often being considered in sum, and a zoo’s dependence on entrance gate profits (and indeed the public’s demand for “newer and cuter”) all contribute to a zoo’s participation in the revolving doors of the exotic animal trade industry. Please contact the zoos in your area and email any feedback you receive to ALDF at


Animal Underworld: Inside America’s Black Market for Rare and Exotic Species by Alan Green

Surplus Animals: A Study of Captive Wildlife in the United States (PDF download)

Jul 1, 2010: Reptile 'House Of Horrors' Police Video Released

By Tom Murray

Police released investigation video on Thursday of what they call a "house of horrors" in reports.

It's been called animal hoarding. The video shows turtles in tupperware intermingled with piles and piles of stuff. Alligators and crocodiles were kept in metal horse troughs stacked one on top of another.

Prosecutors say 60-year-old reptile lover Terry Cullen is responsible. Police started investigating Cullen after a woman applying for an internship accused him of sexual assault.

In the warehouse at W Lincoln Avenue & S 13th Street, investigators found an uncaged alligator huddled by a radiator. Those working inside are seen on video wearing masks. They described an overwhelming, musty, animal feces smell..." More & video

May 26, 2010: Animal Expert Arrested

Andrew T. Levinson

2 weeks after police pulled hundreds of animals out of a south side warehouse, local reptile expert Terry Cullen was finally arrested and booked Wednesday, but not for charges of animal cruelty.

No one answered the door Wednesday at the residence listed to Cullen. Cullen was also not home 2 weeks ago when police pulled big snakes, alligators, crocodiles and other exotics from the residence and the warehouse.
Officers originally went to the building near 13th and Lincoln to investigate a sex assault case.
Wednesday, Cullen was booked on two counts of sexual assault, one count of kidnapping, and then released from custody. Police won't talk about the allegations, but the district attorney tells us it's a complex case. He plans to file charges Thursday morning, and Cullen could make his first court appearance in the afternoon..." More & video

May 18, 2010: Owner of animals seized by Milwaukee Police speaks out
The owner of hundreds of reptiles seized by Milwaukee police in south side house last week speaks exclusively to FOX6.

In an email statement Terry Cullen says ,
"I've been trying to deal with this Machiavellian nightmare while out of town. I've been gravely ill, far from being on the run. I've been back in town with my attorney for the past two days engaged in the appropriate necessary and legal formalities. I am overwhelmingly concerned for the well being of our animals..."

Cullen says he is also very saddened at the loss of his two dogs, Pogo and Kong who were shot by police during the raid. Cullen goes on to say he's devoted his life conservation, and now his life is shattered.

Milwaukee Police say that the criminal matters in the case are currently under review and depositions are on the way..." More & video

May 16, 2010: Reptile House Owner Tied To Defunct Businesses

By: Tom Murray

Investigators say the owner of the reptile "house of horrors" at 13th & Lincoln has ties to a number of odd businesses and properties.

Terry Cullen, 60, is known publicly for his effort to save the critically endangered Chinese alligator.

"Without immediate intervention, these animals will be extinct," he said in an interview found on YouTube.

Cullen owns the warehouse at 2323 S. 13th Street, where it took two days to remove some 250 creatures. The building is now boarded up and condemned due to the amount of animal waste inside...." More & video

May 16, 2010: 300 Exotic Animals Inventoried

By: Tom Murray

Conditions are so bad at the reptile "house of horrors" at 13th & Lincoln that it's been boarded up and condemned. Police want to talk with the owner, Terry Cullen, and he's not cooperating.

"Some of the worst conditions as far as living conditions, clutter," said DNR Conservation Warden Myles Gervis.

Cullen is known in his field for a dedication to saving species, particularly the critically endangered Chinese Alligator.

"We are dedicated to the preservation and conservation of critically endangered reptiles and amphibians," Cullen said in an interview found on YouTube.

Some who have been inside the warehouse at 2323 S. 13th Street describe it as animal "hoarding." They found live animals intermingled with carcasses and feces covering the floor.

From the building, authorities removed seven Chinese alligators, 58 snakes (including pythons, kings and boa constrictors), 52 crocodiles and four giant African pouched rats. There were also dozens of malnourished feeder rats and mice. The inventory totals some 250 live animals.

Authorities also found about 60 exotic animals at a home near 17th & Morgan, including five anacondas and tarantula family spiders.

"I have seen endangered species, but I'd be hesitant to speculate which ones had adequate permits and which ones didn't," said Jay Christie of the Racine Zoo, who helped with identification.

The creatures are now at Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control. Their future is uncertain.

"We'll do everything in our power to make sure they're adequately cared for," said MADACC Executive Director Melanie Sobel.

Cullen told police earlier this week that he's in Connecticut and has since been difficult to reach.

"Mr. Cullen is an individual that we're looking to talk with," said Lt. Paul Felician of the Milwaukee Police Department. "That's all I can say at this time."

Cullen told investigators he doesn't need a permit for the exotic animals because of his consulting agreement with the Wisconsin Humane Society..." More & video

May 13, 2010: Animals seized from warehouse

By: Andrew T. Levinson

Search warrant leads to some 200 reptiles

MILWAUKEE - Police, animal control and animal experts were called to a two story building on 13th and Lincoln Thursday to remove a wide variety of reptiles.

Officials say they may have been inside for years.

Alligators, crocodiles and large turtles were among the reptiles removed from the building..." More

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