News Index > Sortable Oct '06 - current > October 2006
USDA seized animals from Animalogic

Names have been deleted for reasons of privacy and professional courtesy

USDA seized animals from Animalogic


 These are the animals we rescued The USDA seized these animals from Animalogic/Joe Merzlak then turned them over to the US Animal Protection these animals are now getting the love, care and attention that they have been deprived of for the last 4 months




Case Report For Animalogic
147 E 1st ave.
Hendersonville, N.C.

US Animal Protection Case Notes

On Monday Sept 25th 2006 at 902am I Susan received a call about complaints on the times News Forum copies copied and pasted

It's on 1st avenue in H'ville, I tried to take my kids 3 times. According to the Travel and Tourism website it is supposed to be open to the public. During their "open" time the doors are locked, no hours posted and no note on the door. We lifted the mail slot to look in and damn near fell over. It stunk so bad my 7 year old asked if the animals were dead. I guess we'll keep visiting the Good Ole' Nature Center in Asheville. Parents and teachers beware!!!

22 August 2006

I went out At approx. 12:30 pm and found no one there and the door locked , I tried to look in the windows but found them all to be covered, I lifted up the mail slot in the door and smelled the odor of dead animals.

I saw someone that worked at The Sanctuary a clothing store across the street from Animalogic
Asked who the landlord was and was was told that Michele French who I believe is the owner of a clothing store and she called the owner of the building.He asked if he could call her back

I waited for 15 to 30 minutes before he called back during this time I watched Animalogic's and no one showed up. owner was told of the situation at Animalogics and he gave store owner permission to try the keys she had for the warehouses. We tried all her keys that she had been given so if there was ever any trouble she could get in for him. None of the keys fit she called building owner back and told him I was then told that building owner would be coming into town and that he would try his keys and if his keys did not work he would get a lock smith out., and then call me.

Tuesday Sept 26th 06

I called store owner on Tuesday am to find out if building owner had had any luck with the keys or had to have locksmith out I was told at that time that building owner had gotten a hold of Joe Merzlak owner of Animalogic and that he said that he was going out at night to feed and care for the animals and that building owner thought everything was ok that he believed Joe.

Complainant was in contact with a snake expert and to my knowledge he was in contact with someone who had worked with Joe Merzlak I was given this persons phone #. At the time I was told that this person had gone over to Joes house and told him that I was investigating him at the time he took Joe to Animalogics and Joe went in he stayed outside because the porcupines were loss inside.

On Tuesday A.M. when I talked to him he seemed to feel that everything was OK there and I asked him to get a hold of Joe and see if we could get together so I could try to go inside with Joe to see what the conditions were, he was to call me at approx. 4:30 PM and let me know something.
At approx. 1pm I received a call from him and was told that another complaint had been called into the police dept. and they were out there with a Detective and wild life and other city personnel I called the h'ville police dept and was told that Lieutenant Detective Adams was on sight and was put thru to him I explained who I was and that I had received a request from animal welfare advocate in Asheville that had seen the concerns on the times news forum and that I had been out there Monday and had been trying to get a hold of Joe so I could do my investigation I was told I could come out to the site.

After meeting with officer of the h'ville police Dept and Detective I was told that they had received a complaint that dead animal had be thrown in the trash and Officer told me that when he first went into the building that there was a strong odor of dead animals in there and that a lizard was found dead in the upstairs, and that many of the animals had no water or that the ones that did have water the water was very dirty. And that several Volunteers and Joe had come in and started to feed and clean. That there was feces in the hall floor from the porcupines that had been out during the night. Many of the cages or tanks that held the animals were disgusting.

At that time I asked if I could search the trash and Dumpster I was given permission.
In the Dumpster I smelled a very strong order of dead animals after a few minute search of local businesses for a key to unlock the dumpster I searched it and found in a very large black bag 1 white hedgehog 1 Sugar Glider, mixed in with some rotten cantaloupe and some good grapes. In a Clear trash bag I found what appeared to be 3 animals that could not be identified they were of what looked to be black fur with small ears and somewhat of a bushy tails suspected to be chinchillas.

After receiving permission from Joe to enter and inspect the animals and building I found a strong odor of dead animals in the building, animals that still had no water, 1 hellbenders tank to have very little water and green algae growing on the inside of the tank water was very dirty, as I walked thru the building I saw many tanks with venomous snakes some of the tanks were dirty, in the room off to the left of the back of the hall way was a room that had many various small animals mice, white European chipmunk, sugar gliders, a prehensile tailed porcupine, 2 macaws, 2 African Grays one of which I asked if it was very old or young I was told it was not old and was not young this bird appeared to be showing signs of stress feathers looked somewhat ruff and some were sticking out as if they had been plucked by the bird I saw some dirty enclosures that appeared to be empty and asked what was in them and was told sugar gliders,

There many hard clear plastic containers in this room that had mice and other small animals in them improper housing for any animals. There was also a Pig and a Goat in this room. Pig and goat appeared to be of good weight but was hard to tell because of the lighting all windows were covered and very little electrical lighting was present. Birds need more light to remain healthy. There is a mixture of nocturnal and day time animals in this room these animals should be separated as to provide the proper lighting conditions for there needs. this room also contained 2 kinkajous or bush babies was not sure which they were the small of the 2 did appear to be lethargic and very stressed one of the animals of concern. There was also a native opossum that was light in color with not a lot of dark coloring this opossum was thin another animal of concern. I was told by Joe that the opossum had just come in not long ago and it came in that way.

I have found out that this opossum had come in late april and was fat and was also shown pictures taken of it shortly after it came in this same opossum was also I believe shown on wlos tv and was fat then. There was also several chinchilla's.

To the right of the end of hall there is a room that is much larger this is where the emus were and the large tortoises were they were in the same pen. There was a what appeared to be a black animal with stripes on its head (not a skunk) believed to be a Coatimundi, a Genet, and many more animals.

Upstairs I came to a glass door to a very small room with no ventilation this room had a dead savanna monitor lizard that was dead on a wire cage top with a brown shirt covering part of its tail this lizard was hard and non flexible appeared to have been dead for some time. The stench in this room was so over powering that I had to leave to get fresh air, I went back in and after looking around I saw a cage bottom with unidentifiable fairly fresh brown and black smelly substance in it. There was also many clear plastic cases some with labels on cards and some without in this room I found along with the monitor lizard dead 1 sm. Ball python 1 Tericopulo snake ,2 mice (in case was food that was old and no water) mice were shriveled up and hard, 2 scoutley Baboon spiders Tarantulas, an olive- keeled Flat Rock Scorpion.

Many more cases with dead spiders and I found 1 live tarantula.

This building had no ventilation no windows that were not covered, many animals living in small clear plastic tot cases. We were told that a fox was lose in the building and had chewed a hole in the wall and was hiding in the wall I myself never saw the fox, we also were told that a chinchilla was also lose in the upstairs room but the hole time that I was in that room 30min or so I never saw or heard it there.

Wed. Sept. 27 06 12pm

I arrived at Animalogic to speak with Joe after Tuesday him saying he would assist in anyway and cooperate with us.

The USDA was doing an inspection when I arrived approx. and hour later USDA left and I was able to talk to Joe.

I wanted to know who the vet on record was and if Joe would allow us to bring him in to check the remaining animals health, I was told that vet clinic was vet on record. At this time us animal protection offered to provide food, bedding, and any other supplies or any thing that was needed I was told that they had everything they needed and I was told by Joe that he had called the vet to see if he could come out to sign off on the site so he could get his USDA registration.

After I left I and Melissa contacted Dr. and was told that Joe had only brought in 2 animals and that the only other contact that the vet had was an email about fleas and to prescribe an antibiotic for one of the emus that had an eye infection. Dr. also said he had no clue that he was vet on record and had never agreed to be vet on record also he checked and found out that his insurance did not allow him to go out to the site to even do an inspection or to vet any animal.

Thursday Sept 28 06

After many phone calls USDA did verify that Joe did not have any USDA licenses to operate as an educational center or as a dealer.

Post notes
Former Ex. Director
Has made statements to me over the phone and in person that as of June the animals were healthy and that she could identify what animals were there at that time and which ones were missing, she has pictures of some of them including the opossum she has also stated to me that Joe does not have a clue on what he spends for the care of the animals and that the records keeping with information has not been kept by Joe about the animals place of acquirement health or medical have been kept.

Many people have called to stay if help is needed that they would be happy to help and if Joe had asked for help they would have helped.

Mrs. called and said she had bought some little exotic dessert type mice from Joe at Animalogic and that she was waiting on some Sugar Glider babies to get old enough to leave there mother. And said that her daughter had gotten to know the fox and that the fox had been very shy and miss trusting but had gotten better with her daughter.

WNC Diagnostic Center on hwy. 280 just inside Buncombe Co.

Us Animal Protection offered to pay for necropsies on what we thought was a6 animals turned out to be 7 animals 4 chinchillas, 1 sugar glider, 1 savanna monitor lizard, and 1 white hedgehog all found to be in various states of decay that was so far decayed that they did not have any organs to necropsy, the lizard even though it appeared to have its organs and was not soft and pliable the organs were gone due to decay,

DR. said in his opinion that what we thought was 3 unidentifiable carcass were really 4 and that to the best of his ability that with the state of decay he believed them to be chinchillas, the sugar glider was nothing but a flat hard shell of a carcass, the white hedgehog was also in such a state that the outside of the carcass was identifiable and soft that the internal organs were gone and it could not be necropsied.

Dr. said that he was sending the carcasses to Reilgh for further testing for disease.

The City management made Joe remove all the venomous snakes to outside the city and we were told by Joe that these snakes were going to his mothers and his house Diane told us on Tuesday that she was owner of the animals and that she leased them to Joe later we find out she owns 1/3 of them she was asked by me to give me a list of those animals and also the lease agreement between herself and Joe. She also stated that she had been coming in to feed the animals at night for about a week and that every thing was OK when asked about then how come the dead animals had been dead for so long she did not respond. Also she was advised by myself and Officer that since she said she had been coming in to feed at night and that she was the owner of some of the animals that she could be charged as an accessory to and or charged with animals cruelty herself because if she was feeding then how did she not notice the animals that were dead or that they were sick before they died. and that as owner then and she was a major figure in Animalogic that it was also her responsibility to make sure the animals were care for in a proper manner and in accordance with the laws.

Both Joe and Diane have my phone # and have been told that they could contact me at any time if any help was needed,I>E food bedding, Vetting were needed.

As of Wednesday Joe had quit cooperating and was telling us lies My thoughts on that is so he could move more animals out and to clean and remove the dead and or dyeing this is typical tactics used by people when caught in this situation. Also I feel Joe and His mother Diane are also what is known as hoarders.

I have been informed that at the old site on hwy 280 that there were 300 animals there all were moved to 1st Ave and then the many were taken to Diane's house.

At this time a seizer order is needed and that it includes Diane Merzlak home if the approx. 75 animals could not be taken care of then how can they take care of poisonous snakes and the believed to be many other small animals be taken care of, made the statement to me that at one time Diane need money for bills and and her husband suggested she rent out a room in her large house and they were told by Diane that she could never clean the basement of all the animal mess.

Stench of dead and of animal waste was present in the Animalogic building to the point that you had to leave to get fresh air and dark damp dirty conditions were present. this is an unhealthy environment for any human or animal the conditions were so poor that without major cleaning and the windows being uncovered that many of these animals will not survive for any long period of time that they are and have been deprived of normal day night hours food, a constant source of potable water, that sanitation is so lacking that it could or maybe a health hazard if left unattended to, that the animals have been cruelly housed and taken care of that they have suffer unnecessary pain and deprived of a pain free habitat, that many of the enclosures are inadequate to house the animal in a safe manner that other animals have been put in danger by other animals being able to get lose and run around the building when no one was there. It has been brought to our attention that several bush-babies were lose and one was found very sick and possibly dyeing on Monday night and this animal was not taken to any vet there was also 2 babies with it one was caught and 1 was not able to be caught and was up in the rafters on Tuesday while we were in the building and may have already died. As the First officer was arriving a white station wagon was leaving with what appeared to be trash in it.

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,